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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A halo brace is a metal brace that circles and attaches to your skull. It is used to keep the bones in your cervical spine (neck) from moving. Pins screwed into the skin above your eyebrows keep the halo in place. Metal rods connect the halo to a plastic vest worn over your chest and back. Halo braces are commonly used after a neck fracture or dislocation. Most people wear a halo brace for 8 to 12 weeks.
Take your medicine as directed:
Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:
You may need to return to have your pins tightened. You may need x-rays during your treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
How to care for your halo brace:
- Clean your pins each day: Clean around your pins 2 times each day to prevent infection. Use a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and a fresh cotton swab to clean each pin.
- Report changes in your vest's fit: The fit of your vest should allow you or your caregivers to place a flat hand between your vest and skin.
- Keep your vest liner clean and dry to prevent skin sores: Change your vest liner if it gets wet or dirty.
How to care for your skin and hair with a halo brace:
- Take sponge baths: To help keep your vest dry, take sponge baths or sit in a tub of shallow water. You can use a hair dryer on a cool setting to dry your vest if it gets wet.
- Use soap and water to clean your skin under the vest: Wipe the skin inside your vest with a damp cloth. Clean the skin inside your vest as needed to prevent itching, rashes, and skin sores.
- Use a sprayer to wet and rinse your hair: Use the sprayer while you bend over a sink or bathtub. Cover your neck with a plastic bag to keep the vest liner dry.
- Check for skin breakdown each day: Ask caregivers to check for redness and sores under your brace, especially your chest and shoulder blades. Use cornstarch inside your vest to absorb any moisture. You can also use a hair dryer on the cool setting to dry sweat.
- Do not use lotions or powders on the skin under your halo brace: Lotions and powders can cause sores and irritation.
How to eat with a halo brace:
You may find it hard to swallow with a halo brace. To eat more easily, try the following:
- Carry a cup and straws with you: This may make it easier for you to drink without bending your neck.
- Cut food into small pieces: Take small bites. It may be easier to eat soft or liquid foods while you wear a halo brace.
- Ask if you can crush or break your pills: This may make them easier to swallow.
How to resume normal activities with a halo brace:
- Move slowly and carefully to avoid falls: The size and bulk of the halo brace will affect your balance. You will feel clumsy and awkward for a few weeks as you get used to moving with the halo brace.
- Rest when you need to: It is normal to feel more tired than usual. Ask when you can return to work or school.
- Do not drive a vehicle or ride a bike while you wear your halo brace: You also may have limits on heavy lifting and extreme exercise. Ask about other limits on daily activities.
- Follow your physical therapy instructions: Your primary healthcare provider may want you to go to physical therapy. A physical therapist will help you with special exercises to make your bones and muscles stronger.
How to sleep with a halo brace:
- Try naps in a reclining chair: You may be able to sleep only on your back at first. In time you will learn to sleep on your side or stomach.
- Increase your comfort: Ask if you can place a small pillow or rolled towel under your head or neck to help you sleep. Your primary healthcare provider also may order pain or sleep medicines if needed.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- Your vest feels too tight or too loose or causes pain.
- Your vision is blurry, or you are seeing double.
- You have trouble swallowing.
- Your skin feels sore or itchy under your halo brace.
- You have redness or blisters on your skin.
- The skin around your pins tingles or feels numb or painful.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- The skin on your scalp or around your pins is swollen, red, or leaking fluid.
- You have new or worsening pain.
- You have fallen, and your brace has moved out of place.
- Clear fluid is leaking from a surgery wound or pin site.
- You have a headache and feel weak.
- You have new problems with speaking, moving, or thinking.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.