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Halo gravity traction

Halo gravity traction

In severe cases of scoliosis, halo-gravity traction may be an important part of the treatment. The use of halo-gravity traction removes the impact of gravity on the spine deformity, elongating the spine and stretching out surrounding soft tissue. Severe scoliosis can cause problems with the lungs, limiting expansion of the lungs and motion of the ribs and chest with breathing, which can be demonstrated on pulmonary function testing (PFT). By stretching out the spine there is an increase in vertical height of the chest, which improves lung capacity and breathing. On average, patients will see a correction of 35 percent or more after three to four weeks in traction. However, this is highly dependent on the type of scoliosis.

The halo is a ring device that is held in place on the skull using several pins. Once the ring is attached, traction is immediately applied through the halo, and gradually increased according to the direction of the physician. Traction can be used in beds, wheelchairs and on walkers. Weight is gradually added to the pulley system as the patient becomes more comfortable with the device.

After the doctor determines that the patient has received an acceptable amount of correction, most patients will undergo a spinal correction surgery for a more permanent solution. Often, rods are inserted along the spine to help stabilize the newly corrected spine position.

Rehabilitation while in halo traction

While at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, patients receive physical therapy twice daily. Our hospital has a unique treadmill traction system, allowing patients to walk while in traction. Occupational therapy strengthening exercises include a yoga and Pilates program. Patients also receive respiratory therapy while in traction.

Child life therapists provide a variety of activities for children who are in halo traction, including games, therapeutic play time and educational opportunities. Activities are posted in each patient’s room and at the nurses station.

Frequently asked questions:

Does halo traction hurt? Though patients may have a bit of a headache the first day or two, most say they actually feel much better (less spine pain), breathe easier and frequently gain appetite.

Can you remove the halo? While the halo itself cannot be removed, patients can periodically come out of traction for activities such as bathing and changing clothes. Traction devices are attached to beds so that patients can sleep in traction. The halo frame will be removed when the final surgical treatment is completed.