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Procedure description

A halo is a device placed on the head and chest, to provide added stability for the neck.  It might be placed to stabilize the neck after suffering a fracture, or it might be placed after an extensive cervical operation.  The procedure is generally done while the patient is lying in their hospital bed.  The patient generally receives an intravenous sedative, as well as a local anesthetic.  The halo ring is then affixed to the patient's skull with four pins, and the ring is attached to a vest which goes around the chest, by means of radiolucent graphite bars.  Modern halo's are relatively light weight.  Linings are comfortable, although they can be warm during summer months. 


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.  Pins can looses during the weeks following halo placement, and require repositioning. 

Post-operative care:

  1. Halo's are sturdy constructs, but must be treated with care.  Avoid bumping them.  Shocks can be transmitted through the halo to the pins, skull and cervical spine.
  2. The pin sites must be cleansed twice daily, with betadine and hydrogen peroxide. 
  3. Avoid adjusting the screws on the halo, or the pins attached to the skull.  Leave this to your surgeon.
  4. Carry the halo wrenches with you at all times.  You are unlikely to ever have need for them, but in the case of a cardiac arrest, these may be needed to emergently remove the vest.
  5. Keep the vest clean. 
  6. Do not let anyone pull or push your halo to adjust your position in the bed or a chair.  Instead, let them support you under your back and shoulders and arms.
  7. Although you do not need it, some patients feel better sleeping with a towel rolled up and placed under their head and neck.



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