Upper cervical fractures can heal with conservative treatments such as halo-vest immobilization (HVI) and Minerva jackets without surgery. The most rigid of these, HVI, remains the most frequently used treatment in many centers despite its relatively high frequency of orthosis-related complications. We conducted this study to investigate the clinical outcome, effectiveness, patient satisfaction, and associated complications of HVI.
Materials and Methods
From April 1997 to December 2008, we treated 23 patients for upper cervical spinal injuries with HVI. For analysis, we divided high cervical fractures into four groups, including C1 fracture, C2 dens fracture, C2 hangman's fracture, and C1-2 associated fracture. We evaluated the clinical outcome, complications, and patient satisfaction through chart reviews and a telephone questionnaire.
The healing rate for upper cervical fracture using HVI was 60.9%. In most cases, bony healing occurred within 16 weeks. Older patients required longer fusion time. We observed a 39.1% failure rate, and 60.9% of patients experienced complications. The most common complications were frequent pin loosening (34.8%; 8/23) and pin site infection (17.4%; 4/23). The HVI treatment failed in 66.7% of patients with pin site problems. The patient approval rate was 31.6%.
The HVI produced frequent complications and low patient satisfaction. Bony fusion succeeded in 60.9% of patients. Pin site complications showed a tendency to influence the outcome of HVI, and would be promptly addressed to prevent treatment failure if they develop. The decision to use HVI requires an explanation to the patient of potential complications and constant vigilance to prevent such complications and unsatisfactory outcomes.