Shriners Children's orthopedic surgeons specialize in the application of Mehta casts — an option to treat the curvature of the spine in children diagnosed with infantile scoliosis.
A Mehta cast, named for the British scoliosis specialist who created the life-changing casting protocol, is applied in the operating room. The child, who is typically between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, is placed under anesthesia to reduce stress and ensure he or she remains in a steady position.
Like the serial casting techniques used to address joints by gently stretching to provide correction, Mehta casts slowly straighten the patient’s spine further also using a series of casts. Each cast is applied from below the arms to just below the waistline; sometimes, it may also go over the shoulders.
During application, pressure is placed on the cast, causing the spine to straighten. When the cast hardens, it holds the spine in this position. Each cast is worn for two to three months, with a brief break between applications of the casts. The number of casts needed and time taken to achieve correction varies in each case.
After the child becomes accustomed to balancing with the additional weight of the cast, they may engage in most non-water related play they enjoy. However, to keep skin healthy, care should be taken to keep the cast clean.
Following the Mehta casting series, each child must wear a removable brace for a variable amount of time, depending on individual needs. While Mehta casting corrects spine curvature for some children, for others it may serve to delay curve correction surgery until the child is older.
Treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.
Caring For a Mehta Cast
Having the correct supplies and knowing the right techniques to care for a cast can make a big difference for your child.
Moleskin can help prevent rubbing of the skin at the edges of the cast. While your orthopedic team at Shriners Children's may supply this when the cast is put on, most drug stores also carry this product.
- Because it is made of plaster, the most important element of cast care is keeping it dry. DO NOT allow your child to take a regular bath or shower while in a Mehta cast. Take close care in assisting your child in taking a sponge bath.
- Moisture inside the cast will result in skin issues for your child. For this reason, keep the cast dry - not only when bathing, but also when eating. A salon cape or oversized plastic bib can be helpful for this purpose.
- If the cast gets wet, use the cool setting of a hair dryer to dry the cast. DO NOT use the warm or hot setting.
When your child's stomach is full from a large meal, this may make the cast feel tight and uncomfortable. Consider feeding your child frequent, small meals to avoid this discomfort. Giving your child plenty of fluids so that they will go to the bathroom regularly can also be helpful in keeping the cast more comfortable.
If you child has trouble breathing while in the cast, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
We use plaster for our Mehta casts; fiberglass will not flex and bend the way plaster does. Our goal is to have it as strong as possible, but as light as possible.