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A halo is placed to hold your neck and the bones in a fixed position. It controls and supports your neck posture. It can help reduce pain and prevent further injury. This helps healing. A halo is placed when you have dislocated or broken the bones (vertebrae) in your neck. The halo is like a cast put on a broken arm.
How the Halo is Placed
There are two parts to the halo. The top part (halo ring) fits around your head. The halo ring is held in place by pins that fit into the bone in your head. The doctor will numb the areas in your head where the pins are placed. You will feel pressure while the pins are being placed. You may have some soreness for 1-3 days.
The halo ring is attached to the bottom part (halo vest). The vest fits over your chest. You will wear the halo vest next to your skin under your clothes.
It takes about 1 hour to have the halo placed. You will wear the halo for about 12 weeks.
Wearing the Halo
Your halo prevents unwanted motion in your neck. When you want to look in another direction, your head and trunk will turn as one. You will be able to do many normal activities by yourself. You may need some help with other activities from caregivers or from an assistive device. Ask your doctor for detailed guidelines and restrictions.
Caring for the Halo and My Skin
You can wipe off the halo structure using a cloth dampened with water. Follow the steps below to inspect your skin and wash under the halo vest every day.
Lie flat and turn onto your side.
Have someone help you loosen the straps on one side by your waist.
Inspect the skin under the vest.
Wash the area with plain water and dry the area completely before closing the lower straps.
Be sure to fasten the strap at your waist.
Roll to the opposite side and repeat.
Do not ever loosen the shoulder straps.
Check all areas where the vest touches your skin for redness or irritation.
During the time of your halo treatment, do not shower or get your halo vest wet. Sponge baths are advised. Clean your skin under the halo vest by carefully reaching under the vest with a lightly damp cloth. Do not loosen, change, or remove the halo vest. If your doctor lets you wash your hair, follow their exact instructions. Do not use conditioner, tints, dyes, or sprays on your hair.
Use a dry towel to “fluff and buff” your sheepskin. Slide the towel under your brace and pull it back and forth several times to fluff the sheepskin.
Do not use soap, lotion, or powder under the vest. It may irritate your skin.
Do not use sharp objects to scratch the skin under the vest.
Pin Site Care
Nursing staff will teach you how to keep the pin sites clean. You will need to clean them 2 times a day. Often, a crust will form around each site. This crust must be cleaned off to prevent infection. Your nurse will show you or a caregiver how to do this before you leave the hospital.
Steps for Cleaning Pin Sites
Wash hands well with soap and water.
In a small bowl, mix up antibacterial soap and water.
Dip a sterile cotton swab into the cleaning mixture. Vigorously clean one pin site. Be sure to remove any crust. Then, repeat for each pin site. Always use a new, clean swab for each pin site. Start close to the pin and work away from it in a circular motion.
Your doctor may want you to apply antibiotic ointment around the pin site. Use a small drop of ointment for each pin and use a new, sterile cotton swab to spread it around each pin. No gauze is needed.
Do not use ointments or antiseptics unless your doctor says to.
You can get more supplies on your return visits to the clinic. If you need more supplies but do not have a scheduled clinic visit, call the clinic.
Check the pin sites for signs of infection. Call your doctor right away if you notice:
Red or inflamed pin sites
Pus-like drainage (yellow-green)
Shifting or movement of the pins
Anything that becomes loose
You are able to nod your head
An open area around the pin sites
Pain at pin sites
Any clicking noises
How long do I need to wear the Halo?
Your doctor will decide how long you need to wear your halo. You cannot take off your halo. You must wear your halo as ordered by your doctor. Your halo cannot be removed, adjusted, or changed by anyone except your doctor. If you lose or gain weight, the halo vest may need to be adjusted for proper fit. If you have any problems or concerns, you should contact your doctor right away.
The doctor will do x-rays to determine when your neck is healed. When it is healed, the doctor will remove the halo in the office. You can use band aids over the pin sites if you are going to be in a dirty area.
Your head will feel heavy on your shoulders after the halo is removed. The neck muscles have not had to work for several weeks. You may be fitted for a soft collar to help support your neck. Continue to limit your activities after the halo is removed. The doctor will tell you when you can be more active. It will take several weeks before you feel normal, but you will feel better each day.
You can travel and fly in an airplane. The metal detectors will alarm when you pass through them.
Depending on your job, you may or may not be able to work. Check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Do not lift heavy objects or jump or run.
Do not ride a bike because your balance will be off.
Do not drive a car.
Avoid crowds of people where you might get shoved.
If your neck hurts after any activity, stop and rest.
Ask your doctor about sexual activity.
You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital. You cannot drive while your halo is in place. Always wear your seat belt.
Bend at your hips, knees, and lower back when getting into and out of a car, and from sitting or standing.
Be very careful to allow extra space for the Halo structure when you move near other people or objects. In cold weather, you may want limit your time outside. Wrap your head and halo with a small blanket or large towel to stay warm.
Sleep in any position that is comfortable. You may use a pillow or rolled towel under your neck for comfort.
You may feel more tired during the day, so short naps may help.
To get out of bed, roll over on your side near the edge of the bed. Drop your legs off the bed and push up with your arms and hands at the same time. Do not allow anyone to pull or move you by pulling on the brace.
In an Emergency
If cardiac arrest occurs, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be done by releasing both side buckles and flipping the front of the vest.
Always keep the tools taped to the front of the vest. Do not remove the brace for any reason except an emergency. If you have any questions or problems call the doctor.
When to Call
Any numbness or tingling
Less able to move or do everyday activities
Continuing neck pain
Any changes in the feeling in your arms or legs
Any changes in moving your arms and legs
Reddened or broken skin under or around the vest
Who to Call
Neurosurgery Clinic Patients:
Orthopedic Spine Clinic Patients:
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the resident on call for your clinic. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call
1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.