Assuring optimal physiologic craniocervical alignment and avoidance of swallowing-related complications after occipitocervical fusion by preoperative halo vest placement

Carlos A. Bagley, Timothy F. Witham, Jonathan A. Pindrik, Randy F. Davis, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Jean Paul Wolinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective review. OBJECTIVE: To assess the utility of preoperative halo immobilization in the avoidance of swallowing complications-associated occipitocervical fixation. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: The craniocervical region is commonly affected by a number of pathologic processes. Fixation of the upper cervical spine to the occiput provides an excellent means of treating these conditions. Occipitocervical fixation, however, is associated with a number of potential complications. One under-reported postoperative complication is the swallowing difficulty that some patients experience. Another is the overall patient dissatisfaction with postoperative head position. One means that the authors have used to avoid these complications is the use of preoperative halo vest fixation. METHODS: In this article, we report our experience with preoperative halo vest immobilization for occipitocervical fusion in 12 consecutive patients over a 5-month period and its effect on postoperative complications. We also report our experience with the index case of this series in which the patient required operative revision because of severe postoperative dysphagia and stridor after an occipitocervical fusion. RESULTS: All patients achieved satisfactory postoperative head position using the preoperative halo immobilization technique. One patient experienced transient dysphagia, which did not require intervention. No patients experienced any complications related to the placement of the halo vest itself. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative halo immobilization allows patients, who are going to have their head permanently fixed in a particular position, to determine if they are able to tolerate the new head position. This allows the surgeon to adjust the head position before permanently locking the patient in the position, if necessary. We, therefore, advocate the use of preoperative halo immobilization as a means of assuring physiologic craniocervical neutrality and the avoidance of the resultant complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2009

Keywords

  • Cervical
  • Craniocervical
  • Dysphagia
  • Fusion
  • Halo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology

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