A halo brace is an orthotic, or support, that helps immobilize and protect the bones in the neck (cervical spine) following an injury or surgery. The halo brace consists of a halo (ring), a body jacket (vest) and rigid uprights (rods).
The halo is a rigid ring, closed or opened in the back, which surrounds the head and is attached by pins. There can be anywhere from four to 10 pins, depending on the type of halo being used by your physician. The pins are threaded through the halo into the outer portion of the skull. Some halos are pinless, but they are used only in certain situations.
The vest is plastic and sometimes lined with sheepskin. The sheepskin lies against the patient’s body or torso. Rigid rods or “uprights” connect the halo to the vest.
Preparing Your Home for a Child in a Halo Brace
There are many things you can do to prepare your home for your halo patient:
- Identify potential obstacles and tripping hazards, such as shifting rugs, bulky furniture and electrical cords. Remember that balance, center of gravity and coordination will be affected after the halo placement.
- Put away sports equipment, toys and other objects that require a lot of movement to operate, so that your child is not tempted to play with them.
- Consider using a hospital bed for your halo patient, depending on the layout of your home. This can be discussed with your doctor prior to halo placement.
- If possible, adjust the TV or seat to be level with the child’s head. Keep in mind that he or she won’t be able to sit low and look up.
- Keep any large family pets that have the potential to jump up on your child in another room or in an enclosed area away from the patient.
Preparing Your Child for Wearing a Halo
- Consider cutting your child’s hair prior to application of the halo. This will help prevent long hair from catching in the pins, which can complicate halo removal.
- Get ready for your child to be out of school for several months. Make arrangements with your child’s school and teacher to allow your child to do some schoolwork once they are feeling better.
- Some parents suggest getting your child used to wearing a bib prior to surgery so it does not become a struggle once the halo is on.
Talking to Family and Friends About Halo
To prepare your other children for being around a sibling with a halo brace, show them pictures and let them ask questions. Find out if your hospital has a child life program. This type of program will work with children in your family to prepare them for the halo and to answer their questions.
To prepare adults in your family, show them pictures of halo braces or send them to this website. Remind your family and visitors to always wash their hands while in the house. Also remind them that they will not be able to touch the halo or engage in certain play activities once your child comes home.
Preparing for Traveling with a Child in a Halo
If your child travels in a car safety seat, make sure that the seat is high and wide enough to support a halo. If you don’t own a seat that is large enough, consider contacting a physical therapist, an occupational therapist or a nurse at your local hospital. They may be able to lend you a seat, work with you and a local safety organization to borrow a seat or help you with the proper alternatives, such as a harness.
Consider getting a stroller for your child for traveling in malls or through a large hospital. Strollers should have a firm back and be wide and high enough to support a halo. A wheelchair may be necessary for both inside and outside travel. This will be especially important in the first few weeks after surgery while your child regains strength. Wagons have also been helpful for many people.