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Overtightening of halo pins resulting in intracranial penetration, pneumocephalus, and epileptic seizure

Alexander W. Glover, BSc, MBChB (Hons), Rasheed Zakaria, MBChB, Paul May, MBBS, FRCS, Chris Barrett, MBChB (Hons)

Abstract 

A 60-year-old man sustained an undisplaced type III odontoid fracture following a fall down a full flight of stairs. His medical history was remarkable for a partial pancreatectomy and splenectomy in 2006 for chronic pancreatitis. This had rendered him diabetic, on insulin, and he required long-term administration of penicillin V.

The fracture was treated with a halo vest, and, unknowing of its potentially serious consequences, the patient continued to tighten the halo pins himself.

He presented 1 month later following a witnessed seizure. A computed tomography scan was performed, which demonstrated 2 cranial perforations, with the halo pins penetrating the cranium and resultant pneumocephalus.

He was started on antiepileptic medication and was placed in a pinless halo system. He had no further seizures and has made an uneventful neurological recovery. This paper serves to highlight the potential complications which may arise from the use of a halo vest. Proper patient education is essential to avoid these serious yet avoidable events, and patients with low bone density and the immunosuppressed should be monitored closely.

keywords: 
Odontoid fractures, Halo pin penetration, Seizure
Volume 7
doi: 
10.1016/j.ijsp.2013.01.004