The authors’ objectives were to compare the rate of fusion after occipitoatlantoaxial arthrodesis using structural allograft with the fusion rate from using autograft, to evaluate correction of radiographic parameters, and to describe symptom relief with each graft technique.
The authors assessed radiological fusion at 6 and 12 months after surgery and obtained radiographic measurements of C1–2 and C2–7 lordotic angles, C2–7 sagittal vertical alignments, and posterior occipitocervical angles at preoperative, postoperative, and final follow-up examinations. Demographic data, intraoperative details, adverse events, and functional outcomes were collected from hospitalization records. Radiological fusion was defined as the presence of bone trabeculation and no movement between the graft and the occiput or C-2 on routine flexion-extension cervical radiographs. Radiographic measurements were obtained from lateral standing radiographs with patients in the neutral position.
At the University of Utah, 28 adult patients underwent occipitoatlantoaxial arthrodesis between 2003 and 2010 using bicortical allograft, and 11 patients were treated using iliac crest autograft. Mean follow-up for all patients was 20 months (range 1–108 months). Of the 27 patients with a minimum of 12 months of follow-up, 18 (95%) of 19 in the allograft group and 8 (100%) of 8 in the autograft group demonstrated evidence of bony fusion shown by imaging. Patients in both groups demonstrated minimal deterioration of sagittal vertical alignment at final follow-up. Operative times were comparable, but patients undergoing occipitocervical fusion with autograft demonstrated greater blood loss (316 ml vs 195 ml). One (9%) of 11 patients suffered a significant complication related to autograft harvesting.
The use of allograft in occipitocervical fusion allows a high rate of successful arthrodesis yet avoids the potentially significant morbidity and pain associated with autograft harvesting. The safety and effectiveness profile is comparable with previously published rates for posterior C1–2 fusion using allograft.