The far lateral transcondylar approach to the ventral foramen magnum requires partial resection of the occipital condyle. Early biomechanical studies suggest that occipitocervical (OC) fusion should be considered if 50% of the condyle is resected. In clinical practice, however, a joint-sparing condylectomy has often been employed without the need for OC fusion. The biomechanics of the joint-sparing technique have not been reported. Authors of the present study hypothesized that the clinically relevant joint-sparing condylectomy would result in added stability of the craniovertebral junction as compared with earlier reports.
Multidirectional in vitro flexibility tests were performed using a robotic spine-testing system on 7 fresh cadaveric spines to assess the effect of sequential unilateral joint-sparing condylectomy (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%) in comparison with the intact state by using cardinal direction and coupled moments combined with a simulated head weight “follower load.”
The percent change in range of motion following sequential condylectomy as compared with the intact state was 5.2%, 8.1%, 12.0%, and 27.5% in flexion-extension (FE); 8.4%, 14.7%, 39.1%, and 80.2% in lateral bending (LB); and 24.4%, 31.5%, 49.9%, and 141.1% in axial rotation (AR). Only values at 100% condylectomy were statistically significant (p < 0.05). With coupled motions, however, −3.9%, 6.6%, 35.8%, and 142.4% increases in AR+F and 27.3%, 32.7%, 77.5%, and 175.5% increases in AR+E were found. Values for 75% and 100% condyle resection were statistically significant in AR+E.
When tested in the traditional cardinal directions, a 50% joint-sparing condylectomy did not significantly increase motion. However, removing 75% of the condyle may necessitate fusion, as a statistically significant increase in motion was found when E was coupled with AR. Clinical correlation is ultimately needed to determine the need for OC fusion.
ABBREVIATIONSAR = axial rotation; CVJ = craniovertebral junction; FE = flexion-extension; HWL = head weight load; LB = lateral bending; O = occiput; OC = occipitocervical; ROM = range of motion; SOC+C1 = suboccipital craniectomy with C-1 laminectomy.
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