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  • By Author: Snyder, Laura A. x
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Luis Perez-Orribo, Laura A. Snyder, Samuel Kalb, Ali M. Elhadi, Forrest Hsu, Anna G. U. S. Newcomb, Devika Malhotra, Neil R. Crawford and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Craniovertebral junction (CVJ) injuries complicated by transverse atlantal ligament (TAL) disruption often require surgical stabilization. Measurements based on the atlantodental interval (ADI), atlas lateral diameter (ALD1), and axis lateral diameter (ALD2) may help clinicians identify TAL disruption. This study used CT scanning to evaluate the reliability of these measurements and other variants in the clinical setting.

METHODS

Patients with CVJ injuries treated at the authors' institution between 2004 and 2011 were evaluated retrospectively for demographics, mechanism and location of CVJ injury, classification of injury, treatment, and modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association score at the time of injury and follow-up. The integrity of the TAL was evaluated using MRI. The ADI, ALD1, and ALD2 were measured on CT to identify TAL disruption indirectly.

RESULTS

Among the 125 patients identified, 40 (32%) had atlas fractures, 59 (47.2%) odontoid fractures, 31 (24.8%) axis fractures, and 4 (3.2%) occipital condyle fractures. TAL disruption was documented on MRI in 11 cases (8.8%). The average ADI for TAL injury was 1.8 mm (range 0.9–3.9 mm). Nine (81.8%) of the 11 patients with TAL injury had an ADI of less than 3 mm. In 10 patients (90.9%) with TAL injury, overhang of the C-1 lateral masses on C-2 was less than 7 mm. ADI, ALD1, ALD2, ALD1 – ALD2, and ALD1/ALD2 did not correlate with the integrity of the TAL.

CONCLUSIONS

No current measurement method using CT, including the ADI, ALD1, and ALD2 or their differences or ratios, consistently indicates the integrity of the TAL. A more reliable CT-based criterion is needed to diagnose TAL disruption when MRI is unavailable.

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Luis Perez-Orribo, Samuel Kalb, Laura A. Snyder, Forrest Hsu, Devika Malhotra, Richard D. Lefevre, Ali M. Elhadi, Anna G. U. S. Newcomb, Nicholas Theodore and Neil R. Crawford

OBJECTIVE

The rule of Spence is inaccurate for assessing integrity of the transverse atlantal ligament (TAL). Because CT is quick and easy to perform at most trauma centers, the authors propose a novel sequence of obtaining 2 CT scans to improve the diagnosis of TAL impairment. The sensitivity of a new CT-based method for diagnosing a TAL injury in a cadaveric model was assessed.

METHODS

Ten human cadaveric occipitocervical specimens were mounted horizontally in a supine posture with wooden inserts attached to the back of the skull to maintain a neutral or flexed (10°) posture. Specimens were scanned in neutral and flexed postures in a total of 4 conditions (3 conditions in each specimen): 1) intact (n = 10); either 2A) after a simulated Jefferson fracture with an intact TAL (n = 5) or 2B) after a TAL disruption with no Jefferson fracture (n = 5); and 3) after TAL disruption and a simulated Jefferson fracture (n = 10). The atlantodental interval (ADI) and cross-sectional canal area were measured.

RESULTS

From the neutral to the flexed posture, ADI increased an average of 2.5% in intact spines, 6.25% after a Jefferson fracture without TAL disruption, 34% after a TAL disruption without fracture, and 25% after TAL disruption with fracture. The increase in ADI was significant with both TAL disruption and TAL disruption and fracture (p < 0.005) but not in the other 2 conditions (p > 0.6). Changes in spinal canal area were not significant (p > 0.70).

CONCLUSIONS

This novel method was more sensitive than the rule of Spence for evaluating the integrity of the TAL on CT and does not increase the risk of further neurological damage.