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Cervical traction
Procedure description

Cervical traction (Gardner Wells is most commonly used) is a device to stabilize the neck and provide axial distraction to the head and neck (pull the head and neck, in a controlled and gentle manner, away from the chest and body).  It is often used to stabilize fractures of the neck.  It is generally a temporary solution until a halo can be placed, or a neck fusion can be performed.  Local anesthetic is applied to the scalp, above and slightly behind the mid point of the ears, and two pins are inserted, affixing themselves to the outer table of the skull.  A weight is then applied through a pulley system, to apply a distraction force to the head.  Often, especially in the case of a neck fracture, the patient will immediately experience improvement in neck pain as the neck is now stabilized.

 

Procedure Risks

Although risks are quite low, there are several.  During application of the halo, there can be the typical risks associated with any medication and anesthetics, which would include respiratory arrest, stroke, coma, death, and allergic reaction.  There can be potential bleeding from the pin sites.  The sites can become infected during the time they remain in place.  There can be resorption of the bone subjacent to the pins, and they could theoretically puncture through the bone and into the brain.  Generally a traction device is a temporary solution, and therefore there are no long term risks or long term care instructions.

 

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