A device used to immobilize the head and cervical spine following vertebral injury or surgery. It is designed to provide in-line traction of the cervical spine while allowing for a moderate amount of functional independence. The halo vest consists of three parts: (1) the halo, secured into the skull through the use of four pins or screws; (2) the vest, worn over the shoulders and trunk to support the weight of the halo, skull, and cervical spine; and (3) four metal bars connecting the halo to the vest.
The screws attaching the halo to the skull must be kept clean to reduce the risk of infection. Hygiene consists of cleaning each pin two to three times a day as prescribed by a physician. The patient should be instructed on how to use a mirror to inspect the sites for signs of infection, e.g., redness of the skin, or purulent drainage from around the pins. If the vest becomes wet, it should be dried with a hairdryer set on its lowest temperature setting. The shoulders and thorax should be inspected for signs of irritation from the vest. Additional padding may be required around pressure-sensitive areas.
Complications reported with the halo vest include: (1) incomplete cervical fracture healing (in about 10% to 15% of patients); (2) impairments in balance, vision, and some activities of daily living; (3) infection; (4) loosening of pins; and (5) scarring of skin at pin insertion sites.