Object. In this, the first of two articles regarding C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, the authors assessed the rate of fusion, surgery-related complications, and lessons learned after C1–2 transarticular screw fixation in an adult patient series.
Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed 191 consecutive patients (107 women and 84 men; mean age 49.7 years, range 17–90 years) in whom at least one C1–2 transarticular screw was placed. Overall 353 transarticular screws were placed for trauma (85 patients), rheumatoid arthritis (63 patients), congenital anomaly (26 patients), os odontoideum (four patients), neoplasm (eight patients), and chronic cervical instability (five patients). Among these, 67 transarticular screws were placed in 36 patients as part of an occipitocervical construct. Seventeen patients had undergone 24 posterior C1–2 fusion attempts prior to referral. The mean follow-up period was 15.2 months (range 0.1–106.3 months).
Fusion was achieved in 98% of cases followed to commencement of fusion or for at least 24 months. The mean duration until fusion was 9.5 months (range 3–48 months). Complications occurred in 32 patients. Most were minor; however, five patients suffered vertebral artery (VA) injury. One bilateral VA injury resulted in patient death. The others did not result in any permanent neurological sequelae.
Conclusions. Based on this series, the authors have learned important lessons that can improve outcomes and safety. These include techniques to improve screw-related patient positioning, development of optimal instrumentation, improved screw materials and design, and defining the role for stereotactic navigation. Atlantoaxial transarticular screw fixation is highly effective in achieving fusion, and the complication rate is low when performed by properly trained surgeons.