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Jeffrey D. Jenkins, Domagoj Coric and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Object. The optimal treatment of Type II odontoid fractures is controversial. Various therapies have been used, including nonrigid immobilization, halo orthosis, posterior atlantoaxial arthrodesis, and odontoid screw fixation. Of these, odontoid screw fixation is the only treatment modality that provides immediate stabilization and preserves normal motion at C1–2. It has been suggested in cadaveric biomechanical studies that there is no advantage to using more than one screw for anterior odontoid fixation. The authors compared the clinical safety and efficacy of one- and two-screw anterior odontoid fixation.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records and radiographs of 42 consecutive patients who had undergone fixation for treatment of odontoid fractures at a single institution between 1989 and 1995.

The group treated with a single screw consisted of 20 patients (11 males and nine females) with an average age of 54 years. The union rate in this group, as determined by postoperative dynamic radiographs, was 81%. The group treated with two screws consisted of 22 patients (13 men and nine women) with an average age of 64 years, whose union rate was 85%.

Conclusions. Anterior odontoid screw fixation is a safe and efficacious treatment for odontoid fractures. In the authors' experience there was no significant difference in the successful union rates achieved with either the one- or two-screw fixation techniques (81% and 85%, respectively; χ2 = 0.09, p = 0.76).

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Domagoj Coric and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is often the result of advanced degeneration of motion segments of the lumbar spine. Loss of disc height, facet displacement and hypertrophy, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis, as well as buckling of the ligamentum flavum and annulus fibrosus, all contribute to impingement on the spinal canal and intervertebral foramen in lumbar stenosis. There is a subgroup of patients with spinal stenosis in whom the spine is unstable preoperatively or becomes destabilized following decompression who would benefit from an initial fusion procedure. Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) addresses several aspects of the multifactorial pathophysiology responsible for spinal stenosis and may arrest the degenerative changes at the fused level. Fusion, in particular PLIF, should be considered in complex cases of lumbar spinal stenosis, most notably in patients with postlaminectomy stenosis or stenosis associated with spondylolisthesis.

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Domagoj Coric, Charles L. Branch Jr. and Jeffrey D. Jenkins

U Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is an efficacious procedure used to treat a variety of cervical spinal disorders, including spondylosis, myelopathy, herniated discs, trauma, and degenerative disc disease. Pseudarthrosis, or failure of fusion, may be the most common complication of spinal fusion procedures. Nineteen consecutive patients with symptomatic pseudarthrosis following failed anterior cervical fusions were treated with anterior cervical revision using iliac crest allografts and either the Cervical Spine Locking Plate system (10 patients) or the Trapezial Osteosynthetic Plate system (nine patients). The mean age of the nine men and 10 women undergoing treatment was 49.1 years (range 25–72 years). Eleven patients (57.9%) exhibited pseudarthrosis at one level, six (31.5%) at two levels, and two (10.5%) at three levels. The indications for revision were intractable neck pain with radiculopathy (17 patients) or myelopathy (two patients), with evidence of pseudarthrosis on plain cervical radiography as well as computerized tomography (CT) or single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scanning, or both. All eight patients evaluated with SPECT showed increased focal uptake consistent with pseudarthrosis, which was subsequently confirmed intraoperatively in all eight. The average follow-up period was 22.4 months (range 12–42 months).

Solid osseous fusion was achieved over all 28 levels in all 18 patients available for follow-up review (100%). One patient died 4 months postoperatively from myocardial infarction related to preexisting coronary artery disease. There were no intraoperative complications; postoperatively, two patients (10.5%) experienced transient hoarseness.

Anterior revision of failed cervical fusions using allograft interbody fusion material and anterior plating is a safe and efficacious procedure. In this series, the use of allografts avoided donor site morbidity without adversely affecting fusion rates. Rigid internal fixation was achieved by means of anterior plating without increasing surgical morbidity rates. The SPECT imaging technique has the potential to reliably confirm the diagnosis of pseudarthrosis.

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Domagoj Coric, Charles L. Branch Jr., John A. Wilson and James C. Robinson

✓ A case is reported of a vertebral artery-to-epidural venous plexus fistula as a complication of posterior atlantoaxial facet screw fixation. The use of transarticular screws to stabilize the C1–2 joint has become an increasingly popular fixation technique, most notably for atlantoaxial instability due to trauma or rheumatoid disease. Despite the fact that this approach is technically challenging, there have been few reports of complications associated with C1–2 transarticular fixation. Although damage to the vertebral artery is a documented hazard of transarticular fixation at this level, a symptomatic arteriovenous fistula resulting from the procedure has not been described previously. The etiology, presentation, and treatment of this unusual complication are discussed.