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Douglas L. Brockmeyer

✓ A new technique for performing a posterior rib and multistranded cable atlantoaxial fusion in children is described. The technique has been used successfully, in two patients 22 and 18 months of age, respectively. In both cases, fusion was used to augment C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, and solid arthrodesis was achieved without a halo orthosis.

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Wayne M. Gluf and Douglas L. Brockmeyer

Object. In this, the second of two articles regarding C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, the authors discuss their surgical experience in treating patients 16 years of age and younger, detailing the rate of fusion, complication avoidance, and lessons learned in the pediatric population.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed 67 consecutive patients (23 girls and 44 boys) younger than 16 years of age in whom at least one C1–2 transarticular screw fixation procedure was performed. A total of 127 transarticular screws were placed in these 67 patients whose mean age at time of surgery was 9 years (range 1.7–16 years). The indications for surgery were trauma in 24 patients, os odontoideum in 22 patients, and congenital anomaly in 17 patients. Forty-four patients underwent atlantoaxial fusion and 23 patients underwent occipitocervical fusion. Two of the 67 patients underwent halo therapy postoperatively.

All patients were followed for a minimum of 3 months. In all 67 patients successful fusion was achieved.Complications occurred in seven patients (10.4%), including two vertebral artery injuries.

Conclusions. The use of C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, combined with appropriate atlantoaxial and craniovertebral bone/graft constructs, resulted in a 100% fusion rate in a large consecutive series of pediatric patients. The risks of C1–2 transarticular screw fixation can be minimized in this population by undertaking careful patient selection and meticulous preoperative planning.

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Sarah T. Garber and Douglas L. Brockmeyer


Subaxial cervical instability in very young or small-for-age children is uncommon and typically arises from trauma or skeletal dysplasia. Various operative techniques have been used to achieve stabilization in pediatric patients with evidence of instability, including anterior, posterior, and combined approaches. In this study, the authors report their results with subaxial cervical instability in this patient population treated using a static single-screw anterior cervical plate (ACP) system and allograft fusion.


In a retrospective chart review, the authors identified all patients 6 years of age or younger who underwent an anterior cervical fusion procedure using a static single-screw ACP system either as a stand-alone construct or as part of an anterior-posterior stabilization procedure. Reasons for fusion included trauma, tumor, and congenital anomalies.


Five patients 6 years of age or younger underwent anterior cervical fusion using a static single-screw system during the 19-year study period. Follow-up ranged from 12 to 51 months (mean 26.8 months). Two patients underwent repeat surgery, one 7 days after and the other 21 months after their initial procedure. At last follow-up, a mean vertical growth of 22.8% was seen across the fused segments, with no evidence of kyphotic or lordotic abnormalities.


In very young or small-for-age children, the use of a static single-screw ACP system appears to be a safe and effective option to manage subaxial cervical instability. Bony fusion and continued longitudinal growth occur within the fused segments, with no evidence of long-term cervical malalignment.

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Douglas L. Brockmeyer and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

✓ Posterior occipitocervical stabilization procedures were successfully performed in 10 patients (nine boys and one girl) 16 years of age or younger by using C1–2 transarticular screws coupled with a rigid occipitocervical construct. The average length of follow-up evaluation was 18.8 months (range 5–37 months). No implant failed and all fusions were successful without the use of an external orthotic halo device.

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Rajiv R. Iyer and Douglas L. Brockmeyer

This case involved a 6-year-old boy with Down syndrome, left C1 lateral mass hypertrophy, C1–2 rotatory subluxation, and spinal cord compression. He presented after falling down some stairs at his home. Torticollis, dysphagia, and speech delay were noted on examination. Vascular imaging showed impingement on the left vertebral artery by the anomalous C1 lateral mass. Through a posterior approach, the hypertrophic C1 lateral mass was resected, and an occiput–C2 fusion was performed. Postoperatively, his torticollis and brainstem symptoms were resolved.

The video can be found here:

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Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Meghan M. Brockmeyer, and Taryn Bragg


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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Robert J. Bollo, Jay Riva-Cambrin, Meghan M. Brockmeyer, and Douglas L. Brockmeyer


Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) is a congenital anomaly often treated by decompressive surgery. Patients who fail to respond to standard surgical management often have complex anomalies of the craniovertebral junction and brainstem compression, requiring reduction and occipitocervical fusion. The authors hypothesized that a subgroup of “complex” patients defined by specific radiographic risk factors may have a higher rate of requiring occipitocervical fusion.


A retrospective review was conducted of clinical and radiographic data in pediatric patients undergoing surgery for CM-I between 1995 and 2010. The following radiographic criteria were identified: scoliosis, syringomyelia, CM Type 1.5, medullary kinking, basilar invagination, tonsillar descent, craniocervical angulation (clivoaxial angle [CXA] < 125°), and ventral brainstem compression (pB–C2 ≥ 9 mm). A multivariate Cox regression analysis was used to determine the independent association between occipitocervical fusion and each variable.


Of the 206 patients who underwent CM decompression with or without occipitocervical fusion during the study period, 101 had preoperative imaging available for review and formed the study population. Mean age at surgery was 9.1 years, and mean follow-up was 2.3 years. Eighty-two patients underwent suboccipital decompression alone (mean age 8.7 years). Nineteen patients underwent occipitocervical fusion (mean age 11.1 years), either as part of the initial surgical procedure or in a delayed fashion. Factors demonstrating a significantly increased risk of requiring fusion were basilar invagination (HR 9.8, 95% CI 2.2–44.2), CM 1.5 (HR 14.7, 95% CI 1.8–122.5), and CXA < 125° (HR 3.9, 95% CI 1.2–12.6).


Patients presenting with basilar invagination, CM 1.5, and CXA < 125° are at increased risk of requiring an occipitocervical fusion procedure either as an adjunct to initial surgical decompression or in a delayed fashion. Patients and their families should be counseled in regard to these findings as part of a preoperative CM evaluation.

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Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Julie E. York, and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Object. Craniovertebral instability is a challenging problem in pediatric spinal surgery. Recently, C1–2 transarticular screw fixation has been used to assist in craniovertebral joint stabilization in pediatric patients. Currently there are no available data that define the anatomical suitability of this technique in the pediatric population. The authors report their experience in treating 31 pediatric patients with craniovertebral instability by using C1–2 transarticular screws.

Methods. From March 1992 to October 1998, 31 patients who were 16 years of age or younger with atlantooccipital or atlantoaxial instability, or both, were evaluated at our institution. There were 21 boys and 10 girls. Their ages ranged from 4 to 16 years (mean age 10.2 years). The most common causes of instability were os odontoideum (12 patients) and ligamentous laxity (eight patients). Six patients had undergone a total of nine previous attempts at posterior fusion while at outside institutions.

All patients underwent extensive preoperative radiological evaluation including fine-slice (1-mm) computerized tomography scanning with multiplanar reconstruction to evaluate the anatomy of the C1–2 joint space. Preoperatively, of the 62 possible C1–2 joint spaces in 31 patients, 55 sides (89%) were considered suitable for transarticular screw placement. In three patients the anatomy was considered unsuitable for bilateral screw placement. In three patients the anatomy was considered inadequate on one side. Fifty-five C1–2 transarticular screws were subsequently placed, and there were no neurological or vascular complications.

Conclusions. The authors conclude that C1–2 transarticular screw fixation is technically possible in a large proportion of pediatric patients with craniovertebral instability.