✓ The biomechanical characteristics of four different methods of C1–2 cable fixation were studied to assess the effectiveness of each technique in restoring atlantoaxial stability. Biomechanical testing was performed on the upper cervical spines of four human cadaveric specimens. Physiological range loading was applied to the atlantoaxial specimens and three-dimensional motion was analyzed with stereophotogrammetry. The load–deformation relationships and kinematics were measured, including the stiffness, the angular ranges of motion, the linear ranges of motion, and the axes of rotation.
Specimens were nondestructively tested in the intact state, after surgical destabilization, and after each of four different methods of cable fixation. Cable fixation techniques included the interspinous technique, the Brooks technique, and two variants of the Gallie technique. All specimens were tested immediately after fixation and again after the specimen was fatigued with 6000 cycles of physiological range torsional loading.
All four cable fixation methods were moderately flexible immediately; the different cable fixations allowed between 5° and 40° of rotational motion and between 0.6 and 7 mm of translational motion to occur at C1–2. The Brooks and interspinous methods controlled C1–2 motion significantly better than both of the Gallie techniques. The motion allowed by one of the Gallie techniques did not differ significantly from the motion of the unfixed destabilized specimens. All cable fixation techniques loosened after cyclic loading and demonstrated significant increases in C1–2 rotational and translational motions. The bone grafts shifted during cyclic loading, which reduced the effectiveness of the fixation.
The locations of the axes of rotation, which were unconstrained and mobile in the destabilized specimens, became altered with cable fixation. The C1–2 cables constrained motion by shifting the axes of rotation so that C-1 rotated around the fixed cable and graft site. After the specimen was fatigued, the axes of rotation became more widely dispersed but were usually still localized near the cable and graft site.
Adequate healing requires satisfactory control of C1–2 motion. Therefore, some adjunctive fixation is advocated to supplement the control of motion after C1–2 cable fixation (that is, a cervical collar, a halo brace, or rigid internal fixation with transarticular screws).