Posterior atlantoaxial stabilization: new alternative to C1–2 transarticular screws

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Object

Surgical treatment of atlantoaxial instability has evolved to include various posterior wiring techniques including Brooks, Gallie, and Sonntag fusions in which success rates range from 60 to 100%. The Magerl–Seemans technique in which C1–2 transarticular screws are placed results in fusion rates between 87 and 100%. This procedure is technically demanding and requires precise knowledge of the course of the vertebral arteries (VAs). The authors introduce a new C1–2 fixation procedure in which C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pedicle screws are placed that may have advantages over C1–2 transarticular screw constructs.

Methods

A standard posterior C1–2 exposure is obtained. Polyaxial C-2 pedicle screws and C-1 lateral mass screws are placed bilaterally. Rods are connected to the screws and secured using locking nuts. A cross-link is then placed. Fusion can be performed at the atlantoaxial joint by elevating the C-2 nerve root.

The technique for this procedure has been used in four cases of atlantoaxial instability at the author's institution. There have been no C-2 nerve root– or VA-related injuries. No cases of construct failure have been observed in the short-term follow up period.

Conclusions

Atlantoaxial lateral mass and axial pedicle screw fixation offers an alternative means of achieving atlantoaxial fusion. The technique is less demanding than that required for transarticular screw placement and may avoid the potential complication of VA injury. The cross-linked construct is theoretically stable in flexion, extension, and rotation. Laminectomy or fracture of the posterior elements does not preclude use of this fixation procedure.

Abbreviations used in this paper:AP = anteroposterior; CT = computerized tomography; SCI = spinal cord injury; VA = vertebral artery.

Object

Surgical treatment of atlantoaxial instability has evolved to include various posterior wiring techniques including Brooks, Gallie, and Sonntag fusions in which success rates range from 60 to 100%. The Magerl–Seemans technique in which C1–2 transarticular screws are placed results in fusion rates between 87 and 100%. This procedure is technically demanding and requires precise knowledge of the course of the vertebral arteries (VAs). The authors introduce a new C1–2 fixation procedure in which C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pedicle screws are placed that may have advantages over C1–2 transarticular screw constructs.

Methods

A standard posterior C1–2 exposure is obtained. Polyaxial C-2 pedicle screws and C-1 lateral mass screws are placed bilaterally. Rods are connected to the screws and secured using locking nuts. A cross-link is then placed. Fusion can be performed at the atlantoaxial joint by elevating the C-2 nerve root.

The technique for this procedure has been used in four cases of atlantoaxial instability at the author's institution. There have been no C-2 nerve root– or VA-related injuries. No cases of construct failure have been observed in the short-term follow up period.

Conclusions

Atlantoaxial lateral mass and axial pedicle screw fixation offers an alternative means of achieving atlantoaxial fusion. The technique is less demanding than that required for transarticular screw placement and may avoid the potential complication of VA injury. The cross-linked construct is theoretically stable in flexion, extension, and rotation. Laminectomy or fracture of the posterior elements does not preclude use of this fixation procedure.

Abbreviations used in this paper:AP = anteroposterior; CT = computerized tomography; SCI = spinal cord injury; VA = vertebral artery.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: J. Patrick Johnson, M.D., Cedars Sinai Institute for Spinal Disorders, 444 South San Vicente Boulevard, Suite 800, Los Angeles, California 90048. email: johnsonjp@cshs.org.
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