Rigid screw fixation may be technically difficult in the upper cervical spine of young children. Intraoperative stereotactic navigation may potentially assist a surgeon in precise placement of screws in anatomically challenging locations. Navigation may also assist in defining abnormal anatomy. The object of this study was to evaluate the authors’ initial experience with the feasibility and accuracy of this technique, both for resection and for screw placement in the upper cervical spine in younger children.
Eight consecutive pediatric patients 10 years of age or younger underwent upper cervical spine surgery aided by image-guided navigation. The demographic, surgical, and clinical data were recorded. Screw position was evaluated with either an intraoperative or immediately postoperative CT scan.
One patient underwent navigation purely for guidance of bony resection. A total of 14 navigated screws were placed in the other 7 patients, including 5 C-2 pedicle screws. All 14 screws were properly positioned, defined as the screw completely contained within the cortical bone in the expected trajectory. There were no immediate complications associated with navigation.
Image-guided navigation is feasible within the pediatric cervical spine and may be a useful surgical tool for placing screws in a patient with small, often difficult bony anatomy. The authors describe their experience with their first 8 pediatric patients who underwent navigation in cervical spine surgery. The authors highlight differences in technique compared with similar navigation in adults.