Wondering if serial casting for cerebral palsy patients can relieve spasticity?
Serial casting is a non-invasive form of spasticity treatment that works to gradually stretch contracted muscles.
This article will further explain what serial casting is, and how it can help children with cerebral palsy manage their spasticity.
Let’s get started!
What is Serial Casting?
Serial casting is used for children with cerebral palsy that have shortened muscles due to spasticity. When muscles stay contracted, they limit the joint’s range of motion, which results in stiff movements.
Serial casting holds the joint in place so that there is slight tension on the muscle. This tension will gradually make the muscle longer and more flexible.
It’s most commonly used for the ankle area, but can also be used for the knees, elbows, wrists, or fingers.
The goal of serial casting is to increase range of motion and lengthen contracted muscles through subtle, prolonged stretching.
Serial casting ensures that the muscle is constantly being stretched, even when your child isn’t doing anything. This is called passive stretching.
Many children with spasticity in their legs will develop an abnormal walking pattern.
Serial casting will help promote proper form so that your child isn’t walking on their toes, or with their feet pointed inward or outward.
How Long Do You Wear the Cast?
Serial casting is non-invasive, making it ideal for children.
It’s a gradual process that can last several weeks or months.
Generally, the cast is replaced every 7 days for a period of up to 12 weeks.
However, the cast can be replaced slightly earlier or later depending on how severe the spasticity is.
This study suggests that changing the cast within 5 days is optimal to the traditional 7 days because it reduces the onset of complications and discontinuation.
By switching out the cast more often, you can reduce the chances of experiencing moisture retention, which can cause skin irritations.
The cast will only slightly stretch the muscles at any one given time, so it should not be painful and your child will be less resistant to wearing it.
As you continue to hold a stretch, the amount of tension decreases because the muscle lengthens.
Therefore, each time that the cast is replaced, the muscle can be stretched a little bit further.
What to Expect After Serial Casting
At first, the cast might feel a little bit uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be painful, but it will add a bit of extra weight to your child’s leg.
Your child should get used to the cast pretty quickly and be able to go about their lives just as they did before they got the cast.
It’s highly encouraged for children to be active while they have the cast on because it will help them adjust to walking with improved form.
Another caution to be aware of is that areas inside the cast may get itchy.
To reduce itching, try to keep the cast dry. Moisture retention can cause blistering or pressure sores.
Make sure that your child doesn’t stick anything inside the cast to relieve the itchiness. This can further irritate the skin or even get stuck inside the cast.
A cast is pretty low maintenance, but it does need to stay dry.
Children will need to wrap their cast with plastic wrap, secure it with medical tape, and place a plastic bag around it when they bathe. Even though it is covered, the limb with the cast should never go in the water.
Can Serial Casting Treat Spasticity Long-Term?
The effects of serial casting are not permanent and will require maintenance after the cast is removed.
Your child’s doctor may advise wearing a brace overnight. Braces can be taken on and off throughout the day and will help maintain your child’s range of motion.
As previously mentioned, serial casting can last up to 12 weeks, and the continuous stretching will lengthen the muscles.
However, failure to continue stretching and exercising after the cast is removed can cause your muscles to shorten again.
It’s important to take advantage of the effects of serial casting and practice moving with correct form as much as you can to retain the improved function.
Serial Casting for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Serial casting is well-tolerated by most children because it is mild, gradual, and comes with minimal side effects if properly taken care of.
Casting will hold your body in place to promote proper form and prevent the muscle from further tightening.
Prolonged stretching will help lengthen muscles to improve flexibility, range of motion, and gait.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand what serial casting is.
By managing spasticity, serial casting can help prevent or at least postpone the need for surgery in children with cerebral palsy.
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