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A hip spica (spy-ka) is a type of plaster cast that covers one or both legs from the ankles up to the belly button. An area around the groin is cut out for toileting. This type of cast is used to prevent movement for hip dysplasia, after hip surgery or for fractures of the femur (thigh bone),
allowing the area to heal.
Your child may be uncomfortable in a hip spica at first, but you and your child will get used to it quickly.
Plaster tends to absorb moisture, so it is very important to keep the hip spica dry. Nursing staff will apply tape (like electrical tape) to the edges of the plaster (called sleeking or taping) around the groin area to help prevent urine (wee) and faeces (poo) from
soaking into the plaster.
The hip spica requires a great deal of special care – especially when it comes to toileting and bathing – and you'll be given a lot of education and preparation before your child goes home.
Nursing staff will demonstrate how to care for your child in a hip spica, including how to pick up and carry your child, position changes, nappy changes, feeding, bathing and transporting them.
You will be encouraged to participate in your child's care during their hospital stay. This will help you to feel more confident when you need to do it at home.
Your child's car seat or booster seat, and pram or wheelchair will need some modifications to fit your child while they are in their hip spica. The nurses caring for your child are trained to make these adjustments, and an occupational therapist (OT) may also help with fitting your
child into appropriate restraints.
Care of the toileting area of your child's cast is important, and needed to make sure your child is comfortable and to keep the cast dry.
It's important to keep the hip spica dry when bathing and washing hair. Washing your child in a hip spica is done by using a bowl of water and a face washer (a sponge bath).
When lifting your child, it is important to support them and the weight of the plaster. Do not lift them under the arms without supporting the plaster as well.
Children in a hip spica cannot move easily, so you will need to change their position often to avoid sores developing under the plaster.
Skin around the edges of the plaster should be checked every day for redness, blisters, pressure areas or skin irritations.
Call your GP or OT if:
You will be advised when your child needs to have a follow-up appointment with a doctor – this is usually six weeks after surgery. At this appointment an X-ray will be taken to see if the hip spica is ready to be removed.
Can I use a disinfectant spray on the hip spica after it has
been in contact with faeces?
Yes, disinfectants and odour sprays can help to clean and
freshen the hip spica. It Is quite uncommon for a hip spica to be changed due
My child is complaining of being itchy under the plaster.
How can I help?
Blowing cool air from a hair-dryer down the
opening of the cast will often resolve any itchiness. Anti-histamines from your
local pharmacy may be helpful too. Keep your child cool in warmer months. This
will minimise sweating and irritation, which can make itchiness worse. Never
let your child place things under the cast to itch the skin, as this can
potentially cause damage, which is not visible.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Orthopaedics department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed June 2018.
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