What does the medical term “Halo” mean?
If you have ever wondered what a “Halo” is then this article was written for you. (No, it has nothing to do with the video game with the same name.)
1.) Definition of a Halo: This orthosis (brace) is a medical device that is applied to someone to help eliminate motion in the transverse, sagittal and coronal planes of the cervical spine. What this means in English is that it will stop movement in the cervical spine in all directions. If applied correctly, there should be no movement. Whether we like to believe it or not, here are times when you want no movement of the cervical spine.
2.) Why Use a Halo?
When someone has severely fractured their vertebrae in their cervical spine, you will need to call upon the use of a halo. Typically it is an odontoid fracture or any type of cervical fracture which will potentially compromise a patient’s neurological function if it continued to be unstable. However, it can be other places in the cervical spine that have been severely injured and you will need a halo as well. These kinds of cervical orthoses (halos) are considered to be the most restrictive cervical brace; above and beyond the use of a soft or rigid cervical collar, or even a CTO (cervical thoracic orthosis) for example.
3.) Halos: Children vs Adults
Typically there are head pins used with a halo. These pins penetrate the skin and are placed into the skull. 4 pins for adults and more for children. Often times you will see for an adult that the halo’s head pins are torqued to 8″ lbs. For children, the rule of thumb is that you apply 1″ lbs of torque per year of life, maxing out at 8″ lbs. Every manufacturer is different so check with them for specifics on their design, but this is a general rule of thumb. If you do apply less torque lbs for a child, sometimes more pins are used to help make up the difference in terms of fixation.
4.) Head Pins & The Patient’s Skin
When it comes to the head pins that enter the skull, it is important to take good care of the patient’s skin after application. Different methods are used to clean a patient’s skin, but it is important for you to be in touch with the manufacturers guidelines after a halo is applied.
5.) Why Its Important to Work With A Professional
Typically, you will find that an individual called an orthotist (professional brace provider) and a physician will be present when a halo is applied. Physicians are needed when correct cervical placement is required and for the injection of lidocaine to help numb any painful sensations from pin placement.