Congenital craniovertebral anomalies are relatively common, but anomalies leading to overt craniocervical instability may be difficult to recognize and treat. The authors present a series of patients with atlantal hemi-rings, a disorder resulting in congenital craniovertebral instability. Presentation, treatment, imaging, and follow-up data obtained in patients with atlantal hemi-rings were assessed to identify factors relevant to craniocervical instability.
Nineteen patients were identified with atlantal hemi-rings, defined as a bony discontinuity of the C-1 ring in conjunction with lateral displacement of the C-1 lateral masses (as seen on coronal CT scans). Clinical and radiological characteristics were analyzed, including patient age at presentation, extent of occipitocervical motion, amount of C-1 lateral mass displacement, associated craniocervical anomalies, integrity of the transverse ligament, and neurological status.
The mean patient age at presentation was 22 months (range birth to 9 years). The mean amount of occipitocervical translation seen on dynamic imaging was 9 mm (range 2–20 mm). Four patients required occipitocervical fusion at presentation. The remaining 15 patients were monitored for a mean of 20 months, and 9 ultimately underwent fusion. Surgery was also recommended for 4 of the remaining 6 children.
This report describes the radiological and clinical characteristics of patients with atlantal hemirings and craniocervical instability. The authors believe that this anomaly is the underlying cause of progressive instability in a significant proportion of patients with craniocervical abnormalities. The presence of atlantal hemi-rings should prompt immediate and thorough neurosurgical evaluation.
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