Occipital condyle to cervical spine fixation in the pediatric population

Report of 4 cases

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina; and
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Straub Clinic & Hospital and Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Fixation at the craniovertebral junction (CVJ) is necessary in a variety of pediatric clinical scenarios. Traditionally an occipital bone to cervical fusion is preformed, which requires a large amount of hardware to be placed on the occiput of a child. If a patient has previously undergone a posterior fossa decompression or requires a decompression at the time of the fusion procedure, it can be difficult to anchor a plate to the occipital bone. The authors propose a technique that can be used when faced with this difficult challenge by using the occipital condyle as a point of fixation for the construct. Adult cadaveric and a limited number of case studies have been published using occipital condyle (C-0) fixation. This work was adapted for the pediatric population. Between 2009 and 2012, 4 children underwent occipital condyle to axial or subaxial spine fixation. One patient had previously undergone posterior fossa surgery for tumor resection, and 1 required decompression at the time of operation. Two patients underwent preoperative deformity reduction using traction. One child had a Chiari malformation Type I. Each procedure was performed using polyaxial screw-rod constructs with intraoperative neuronavigation supplemented by a custom navigational drill guide. Smooth-shanked 3.5-mm polyaxial screws, ranging in length from 26 to 32 mm, were placed into the occipital condyles. All patients successfully underwent occipital condyle to cervical spine fixation. In 3 patients the construct extended from C-0 to C-2, and in 1 from C-0 to T-2. Patients with preoperative halo stabilization were placed in a cervical collar postoperatively. There were no new postoperative neurological deficits or vascular injuries. Each patient underwent postoperative CT, demonstrating excellent screw placement and evidence of solid fusion. Occipital condyle fixation is an effective option in pediatric patients requiring occipitocervical fusion for treatment of deformity and/or instability at the CVJ. The use of intraoperative neuronavigation allows for safe placement of screws into C-0, especially when faced with a challenging patient in whom fixation to the occipital bone is not possible or is less than ideal.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CM-I = Chiari malformation Type I; CVJ = craniovertebral junction; rhBMP = recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Steven S. Glazier, M.D. Department of Neurosurgery, Straub Clinic and Hospital, 888 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813. email: steven.glazier@straub.net.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online November 8, 2013; DOI: 10.3171/2013.9.PEDS131.

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