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Go Yoshida, Mituhiro Kamiya, Hisatake Yoshihara, Tokumi Kanemura, Fumihiko Kato, Yasutugu Yukawa, Keigo Ito, Yukihiro Matsuyama, and Yoshihito Sakai

Object

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a fixed atlantoaxial angle on subaxial sagittal alignment, and that of atlantoaxial fixation on adjacent-segment motion and degeneration.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed 65 patients in whom atlantoaxial instability was treated with atlantoaxial fixation by C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pedicle screw fixation (30 patients, Goel-Harms [GH] group) or a combination of transarticular screw fixation and posterior wiring (35 patients, Magerl-Brooks [MB] group). Angles of Oc–C1, C1–2, C2–3, and C2–7 were determined based on an upright lateral radiograph in flexion, neutral, and extension positions. The range of motion (ROM) at Oc–C1 and C2–3 was also determined. All patients were examined before and 2 years after surgery.

Results

The mean preoperative atlantoaxial angles in the GH and MB groups were 20.9 ± 8.3° and 18.3 ± 7.2°, respectively, and the mean postoperative atlantoaxial angles in the same groups were 23.5 ± 5.6° and 29.7 ± 6.3°, respectively, with a statistically significant difference between the 2 groups (p < 0.05). The mean preoperative angles of C2–7 in the GH and MB groups were 15.4 ± 7.8° and 13.7 ± 9.5°, respectively, and after surgery, the angles were 11.8 ± 12° and 2.48 ± 12°, respectively, with a statistically significant difference between the 2 groups (p < 0.05). The postoperative angle of C1–2 showed a negative correlation with the extent of change observed in the C2–7 angle preand postoperatively in each of these 2 surgical procedures. The Oc–C1 ROM increased after surgery in both groups, but the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.38). The C2–3 ROM decreased after surgery in both groups, and the difference was statistically significant (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Atlantoaxial fixation in a hyperlordotic position produced kyphotic sagittal alignment after surgery in both GH and MB groups. Reduction of the atlantoaxial joint can be easily achieved through screw fixation at an optimal angle, thereby ameliorating the risk for subsequent subaxial kyphosis. Degeneration of lower adjacent segments appeared to be less with this procedure compared with using a combination of transarticular screw fixation and posterior wiring.