Customized anterior craniocervical reconstruction via a modified high-cervical retropharyngeal approach following resection of a spinal tumor involving C1–2/C1–3

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The surgical treatment of an upper cervical spinal tumor (UCST) at C1–2/C1–3 is challenging due to anterior exposure and reconstruction. Limited information has been published concerning the effective approach and reconstruction for an anterior procedure after C1–2/C1–3 UCST resection. The authors attempted to introduce a novel, customized, anterior craniocervical reconstruction between the occipital condyles and inferior vertebrae through a modified high-cervical retropharyngeal approach (mHCRA) in addressing C1–2/C1–3 spinal tumors.


Seven consecutive patients underwent 2-stage UCST resection with circumferential reconstruction. Posterior decompression and occiput-cervical instrumentation was conducted at the stage 1 operation, and anterior craniocervical reconstruction using a 3D-printed implant was performed between the occipital condyles and inferior vertebrae via an mHCRA. The clinical characteristics, perioperative complications, and radiological outcomes were reviewed, and the rationale for anterior craniocervical reconstruction was also clarified.


The mean age of the 7 patients in the study was 47.6 ± 19.0 years (range 12–72 years) when referred to the authors’ center. Six patients (85.7%) had recurrent tumor status, and the interval from primary to recurrence status was 53.0 ± 33.7 months (range 24–105 months). Four patients (57.1%) were diagnosed with a spinal tumor involving C1–3, and 3 patients (42.9%) with a C1–2 tumor. For the anterior procedure, the mean surgical duration and average blood loss were 4.1 ± 0.9 hours (range 3.0–6.0 hours) and 558.3 ± 400.5 ml (range 100–1300 ml), respectively. No severe perioperative complications occurred, except 1 patient with transient dysphagia. The mean pre- and postoperative visual analog scale scores were 8.0 ± 0.8 (range 7–9) and 2.4 ± 0.5 (range 2.0–3.0; p < 0.001), respectively, and the mean improvement rate of cervical spinal cord function was 54.7% ± 13.8% (range 42.9%–83.3%) based on the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association scale score (p < 0.001). Circumferential instrumentation was in good position and no evidence of disease was found at the mean follow-up of 14.8 months (range 7.3–24.2 months).


The mHCRA provides optimal access to the surgical field at the C0–3 level. Customized anterior craniocervical fixation between the occipital condyles and inferior vertebrae can be feasible and effective in managing anterior reconstruction after UCST resection.

ABBREVIATIONS IPCM = isolated plasmacytoma; LCH = Langerhans cell histiocytosis; mHCRA = modified high-cervical retropharyngeal approach; mJOA = modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association; PTMI = printed titanium microporous implant; SINS = spinal instability neoplastic score; UCST = upper cervical spinal tumor; VA = vertebral artery; VAS = visual analog scale.

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplemental Fig. 1 (PDF 1.69 MB)
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Correspondence Jianru Xiao: Changzheng Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China. WHEN CITING Published online November 22, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2019.8.SPINE19874.

S.H., X.Y., C.Y., and N.Z. contributed equally to this study.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.


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