CRT Technology Showcase

Quokka Car Seat: Specialized Positioning for Kids in Casts

Quokka Car SeatWhile addressing hip dysplasia in young children is crucial, spica casting creates new challenges for patients and families, including how to safely transport a casted child home from the hospital.

Some hospitals offer loaner car seats, but they usually require rolling up towels and stuffing them into the seat to prop up the child. Car seats aren’t crash tested with this makeshift positioning in place, and since kids can remain in casts for months, families are forced to roll up towels each time the child is in the car.

Enter the Quokka, Convaid’s new car seat that fits children today while they’re spica casted, and afterward, once their casts are off.

A Positioning Demand with Few Answers

The Quokka — named after an adorably photogenic Australian marsupial — isn’t the first time Etac, Convaid’s parent company, has developed a car seat for kids in casts. Etac also owns R82, which previously sold the Hippo, a car seat that could accommodate casted kids. When the Hippo went off the market, Convaid looked into creating a new car seat that could serve these kids and improve on what had come before.

Laina Brock, Global Product Manager for Convaid, said the Convaid team saw a definite need for a car seat that accommodated casts. “The ones on the market were very cumbersome and hard to use, very heavy,” she said. “It was making what was already hard — a surgery on a kid that’s going to be put into a cast — even harder because now you don’t know if you can safely transport them back home.”

Car seat policies also complicate matters. “A lot of laws are being passed that a child under 2 years of age has to be in a reverse-facing car seat unless they outweigh everything on the market, and that’s hard because there’s such a small number of car seats that allow for a kid in a cast,” Brock said. “Yes, my kid is too big for the casted car seats, but they’re not too big for the normal car seats. But I don’t want to transport them [in a regular car seat] because it’s not ready for a casted kid. But under the law, that car seat still has to be used.”

Quokka’s Quintessential Qualities

Along with the car seat itself — Convaid chose a smaller, shorter shell for a more compact footprint — the Quokka system includes modular triangular wedges that can be configured into larger triangles or cubes as needed for the best fit. “The safety of the child in the car seat increases as more of the kid’s surface area is touching the car seat,” Brock explained. “If you’re in a wreck, how little will this kid move? That’s what the wedge system does: When legs are casted at a certain angle, they can’t be put all the way back into that seat. The wedge creates a 45° angle where their whole backside can be in contact with that seat. You can rearrange the wedge in whatever way you need. It’s all about getting greater surface area contact.”

To accommodate kids of varying ages and sizes, Quokka can be used forward or rear facing. “I think the Quokka came out at a really good time, just as doctors are starting to cast at younger and younger [patient] ages,” Brock noted. “The need for smaller car seats with a really low weight capacity, which the Quokka has, is going to be more and more needed.”

Once the child is out of the cast, the positioning wedges can be removed, and the Quokka can function as a standard car seat. It’s been crash tested with and without the wedge system. The Quokka is for kids weighing 5 to 39.6 lbs., up to 41" tall.

Flexibility Today & Tomorrow

Ease of use is key to any successful pediatric product, and Quokka “uses a common European LATCH system, which most car seats nowadays do,” Brock said. Quokka fits into a single passenger seat, and its small size also makes it easy to handle and transport.

Quokka car seat

The Quokka car seat can be used as a standard car seat after the child is out of the spica cast.

Quokka is designed to accommodate a wide range of casts, because of two truths: Every kid is different, and no two doctors will cast a kid exactly the same way.

“The cast can go all the way up to the torso, or it can stop at the belly button,” Brock said. “Kids can be flat casted, splayed, with bent knees.”

The Quokka and its wedge system can handle it. But as an added best practice, Brock noted, “We’re trying to encourage CPSTs [Car Passenger Safety Technicians] or those who work with these hospital programs to talk with the physicians before they do the casting, because while the doctor has their way of casting that kid and they’ve seen really good outcomes, there’s always a zone of where they can bend that knee or bend that hip. We’ve talked to a number of physicians who are willing to align the hip angle with the Quokka angle, and it has led to so much better fittings to get into the Quokka. I wouldn’t ask the doctor to do that if we had a spectrum of car seats for these children to sit in. But we don’t. If the physician is willing to cast the kids so they can correctly sit in that chair, let’s all work together for the safety of this child and the convenience of the family.”

At a time when families are dealing with so much — doctor visits, hospital stays, casting after-care, follow-up appointments — being able to choose and stick with one car seat that’s easy to use while the child is casted and after the cast is off is one less thing to worry about. The Quokka can offer optimal, functional seating that the family and healthcare team can support. (The Wallaroo car seat is Quokka’s “larger” teammate, accommodating children weighing 22-106 lbs. Like the Quokka, Wallaroo has removable spica systems and wedge inserts.)

As Brock said, “Everyone should be caring about how that kid can most safely get home.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Mobility Management.

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