Object. In a nondestructive, repeated-measures in vitro flexibility experiment, the authors compared the acute stability of C1–2 after placement of C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pars interarticularis (LC1—PC2) instrumentation with that of C1–2 transarticular screw fixation.
Methods. The effect of C-1 laminectomy and C1–2 interspinous cable/graft fixation on LC1—PC2 stability was studied. Screw pullout strengths were also compared. Seven human cadaveric occiput—C3 specimens were loaded nondestructively with pure moments while measuring nonconstrained atlantoaxial motion. Specimens were tested with graft alone, LC1—PC2 alone, LC1—PC2 combined with C-1 laminectomy, and graft-augmented LC1—PC2. Interspinous cable/graft fixation significantly enhanced LC1—PC2 stability during extension. After C-1 laminectomy, the LC1—PC2 construct allowed increased motion during flexion and extension. There was no significant difference in lax zone or range of motion between LC1—PC2 fixation and transarticular screw fixation, but graft-assisted transarticular screws yielded a significantly smaller stiff zone during extension. The difference in pullout resistance between C-1 lateral mass screws and C-2 pars interarticularis screws was insignificant. The LC1—PC2 region restricted motion to within the normal range during all loading modes. Atlantal laminectomy reduced LC1—PC2 stability during flexion and extension.
Conclusions. The instrumentation-augmented LC1—PC2 construct performed biomechanically similarly to the C1–2 transarticular screw fixation. The LC1—PC2 construct resisted flexion, lateral bending, and axial rotation well. The weakness of the LC1—PC2 fixation in resisting extension can be overcome by adding an interspinous graft to the construct.