Children Wearing Spine Device Often Suffer Complications

Clinicians need to monitor for pin site infection, neurological injury in children wearing the halo

MONDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Children wearing a halo device for spinal correction or immobilization should be closely monitored for complications, such as pin site infection or neurological damage, according to a study in the April 15 issue of SPINE.

Noppachart Limpaphayom, M.D., of Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles, and colleagues examined the records of 68 children (mean age 10 years, range 1 to 20 years) who were treated with a halo for improvement of spinal deformity (n = 31) or immobilization (n = 37) between 1996 and 2005.

In the combined study group, there was an overall 53 percent rate of complications with 10 percent of patients needing unexpected surgery. Pin site complications occurred most commonly and included infection, scarring, and skull penetration, the researchers report. Oral antibiotics were successful in resolving 76 percent of infection cases. Neurologic complications, such as cranial nerve injury, extremity weaknesses, Horner syndrome, and bradycardia, occurred in 31 percent of patients and were resolved by adjusting or removing traction weights.

"We recommend serial neurologic examinations of children in halo traction, with immediate removal or decrease in weights at the first sign of neurologic injury," the authors conclude.

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