Using Your Halo Brace at Home
A halo is placed to hold your neck and the bones in a fixed position so your neck can heal and
prevent further injury when you have dislocated or broken
the bones (vertebrae) in your neck. The halo is similar to a
cast put on for a broken arm.
How is the Halo placed?
There are two parts to the halo. The top part (halo ring) fits
around your head. The halo ring is held in place by pins that
fit into the bone in your head. The doctor will numb the
areas in your head where the pins are placed. You will feel
pressure while the pins are being placed and you may have
some soreness there for 1-3 days.
The halo ring is attached to the bottom part (halo vest). The
vest fits over your chest. You will wear the halo vest next to your skin under your clothes.
It takes about 1 hour to have the halo placed. You will wear the halo for about 12 weeks.
Wearing your Halo
Your Halo prevents unwanted motion in your neck. When you want to look in another direction,
your head and trunk will turn as one. You will be able to do some normal activities by yourself.
Ask your doctor for detailed guidelines and restrictions.
Inspect your skin and wash under the halo vest daily.
1. Lie flat and turn onto your side.
2. Ask someone to help you loosen the straps on one side by your waist. Inspect the skin
under the vest. Wash the area with plain water and dry the area completely before
closing the lower straps.
3. Be sure to fasten the strap at your waist.
4. Roll to the opposite side and repeat.
5. Do not ever loosen the shoulder straps.
6. Check all areas where the vest touches your skin for redness or irritation.
During the course of your Halo treatment, do not shower or get your Halo vest wet. Sponge
baths are advised during this time. Clean your skin under the halo vest by carefully reaching
under the vest with a lightly damp cloth. Do not attempt to loosen, change, or remove the Halo
vest. If your doctor permits you to wash your hair during halo treatment, follow their exact
instructions. Do not use conditioner, tints, dyes, or sprays on your hair.
Use a dry towel to “fluff and buff” your sheepskin. Slide the towel under your brace and pull it
back and forth several times to fluff the sheepskin.
Do not use soap, lotion, or powder under the vest. It may irritate your skin.
Do not use sharp objects to scratch the skin under the vest.
Cleaning pin sites
Nursing staff will teach you how to keep the pin sites clean. You will need to clean the pin sites
twice a day. Often, a crust will form around each site. This crust must be cleaned off to prevent
infection. Your nurse will show you or a caregiver how to do this before you leave the hospital.
What to Do:
1. Wash hands well with soap and water.
2. In a small bowl, mix up antibacterial soap and water.
3. Dip a sterile cotton swab into the cleaning mixture. Vigorously clean one pin site. Be
sure to remove any crust. Then, repeat for each pin site. Always use a new, clean
swab for each pin site. Start close to the pin and work away from it in a circular
Do not use ointments or antiseptics unless your doctor says to.
Check the pin sites for signs of infection. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these:
ξ Red or inflamed pin sites
ξ Pus-like drainage (yellow-green)
ξ Shifting or movement of the pins
ξ If anything becomes loose
ξ If you are able to nod your head
ξ An open area around the pin sites
ξ Pain at pin sites
ξ Any clicking noises
You can travel and fly in an airplane. The metal detectors will alarm when you pass through
Depending on your job, you may or may not be able to work. Check with your doctor if you
have questions or concerns.
Do not lift heavy objects or jump or run.
Do not ride a bicycle because your balance will be off.
Do not drive a car.
Avoid crowds of people where you might get shoved.
If your neck hurts after any activity, stop and rest.
Ask your doctor about sexual activity.
Planning for your trip home
You will need someone to drive you home from the hospital because the Halo will restrict your
movement and vision. You cannot drive while your Halo is in place. Always wear your seat
Bend at your hips, knees, and lower back when getting into and out of a car, and from sitting or
standing. Be very careful to allow extra space for the Halo structure when you move near other
people or objects. During cold weather, you may be more comfortable if you limit your time
outside and wrap your head and halo with a small blanket or large towel for warmth.
Sleep in any position that is comfortable. A pillow or rolled towel under your neck may be used.
You may feel more tired during the day, so short naps may help.
To get out of bed, roll over on your side near the edge of the bed. Drop your legs off the bed and
push up with your arms and hands at the same time. Do not allow anyone to pull or move you
by pulling on the brace.
How long do I need to wear the Halo?
Your doctor will decide how long you need to wear your halo. You cannot take off your halo.
You must wear your halo as ordered by your doctor. Your halo cannot be removed, adjusted,
or changed by anyone except your doctor. If you lose or gain weight, the halo vest may need
to be adjusted for proper fit. If you have any problems or concerns, you should contact your
The doctor will do x-rays to determine when your neck is healed. When it is healed, the doctor
will remove the halo in the office. You can use band aids over the pin sites if you are going to be
in a dirty area.
Your head will feel heavy on your shoulders after the halo is removed. The neck muscles have
not had to work for several weeks. You may be fitted for a soft collar to help support your neck.
Continue to limit your activities after the halo is removed. The doctor will tell you when you can
be more active. It will take several weeks before you feel normal, however, you will feel better
What if an emergency occurs?
If cardiac arrest occurs, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be done by releasing both side
buckles and flipping the front of the vest.
Always keep the tools taped to the front of the vest. Do not remove the brace for any reason
except an emergency. If you have any questions or problems call the doctor.
When to call the doctor
If you have numbness, tingling, pain, fever or are less able to move or do everyday activities, call
Call the doctor if you have:
ξ Continuing neck pain
ξ Any changes in the feeling in your arms or legs
ξ Any changes in moving your arms and legs
ξ Reddened or broken skin under or around the vest
Patients of the Neurosurgery Clinic please call (608) 263-1410
Patients of the Orthopedic Spine Clinic call (608) 265-3207
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the
resident on call for your clinic. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6830