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Halo Brace

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a halo brace?

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. Choose a family member or friend to be trained to remove your vest. Only trained caregivers may remove your vest.

How do I care for my halo brace?

  • Clean your pins each day to prevent infection. You may need help from a caregiver to clean around the pins. Follow the specific instructions from your healthcare provider.
    • You may need to use gauze, cotton swabs, tweezers, a squirt bottle, or gloves. Use a different gauze and swab for each site.
    • Your healthcare provider will tell you which liquid to use to clean the site. He or she may tell you to use peroxide, saline, or soap and water.
    • You can soak gauze in the liquid and wrap it around the pins to help remove any crusting.
    • Always wash your hands before and after you clean the sites.
  • 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 do I care for my skin and hair?

  • 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 under 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 your skin 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 do I swallow food, liquid, and pills in a halo brace?

  • 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 your healthcare provider if you can crush or break your pills. This may make them easier to swallow.

What do I need to know about doing my daily activities?

  • 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 needed. It is normal to feel more tired than usual. Ask your healthcare provider 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 exercise. Ask your healthcare provider about other limits on daily activities.
  • Follow your physical therapy instructions. Your healthcare provider may want you to go to physical therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to make your bones and muscles stronger.

How do I sleep in 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 your healthcare provider if you can place a small pillow or rolled towel under your head or neck to help you sleep. Your healthcare provider also may order pain or sleep medicines if needed.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.