Foam Padding in Postoperative Lower Extremity Casting: An Inexpensive Way to Protect Patients

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Background:Although postoperative cast immobilization is routinely used in children, it is not without complications. Few studies have focused on interventions to decrease their frequency. The purpose of this study was to determine if foam padding in postoperative lower extremity casts decreased the rate of cast complications.Methods:A retrospective review of patients who underwent lower extremity casting after elective surgery at a tertiary pediatric hospital from 2006 to 2013 was conducted. Postoperative casts were classified by type (A-frame, short leg, long leg, spica) and the presence of foam. Charts were reviewed for skin complications, cast splits for apparent neurovascular deficits, cast splits for patient complaints, unplanned outpatient returns for cast-related issues, and compartment syndrome.Results:In total, 920 patients with 2,481 casts were included. In total, 612 (24.7%) casts had foam placed during casting. The incidence of skin complications was significantly lower in A-frame casts with foam (4.5%, 5/112) than without (13.4%, 11/82) (P=0.03) and long leg casts with foam (0.9%, 2/225) than without (4.3%, 19/444) (P=0.02). Patients with static encephalopathy casted with foam had a lower incidence of skin complications (0.7%, 2/279) than those without (3.6%, 22/615) (P=0.01). There was no difference in the overall incidence of skin complications in casts with and without foam (P=0.44), short leg casts (P=0.37), and spica casts (P=0.34). Patients with skin complications (20.3±7.1 kg/m2) had a higher body mass index than those without (18.9±5.4 kg/m2) (P=0.04). Postoperative A-frame casts with foam (0.0%, 0/112) were split less often for apparent neurovascular deficits than those without foam (4.5%, 3/67) (P=0.05). The cast split rates for apparent neurovascular deficits in casts with and without foam (P=0.58), long leg casts (P=0.67), short leg casts (P=0.63), and spica casts (P=1.0) were comparable.Conclusions:The use of foam in postoperative lower extremity casting is an effective intervention to reduce the incidence of skin complications in patients with static encephalopathy, in an A-frame cast, or in a long leg cast.Level of Evidence:Level III—retrospective comparative study.

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