Morphologic variations of the second cervical vertebra in Down syndrome compared with age-matched peers

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OBJECTIVE

Atlantoaxial instability is an important cause of pain and neurological dysfunction in patients with Down syndrome (DS), frequently requiring instrumented fusion of the upper cervical spine. This study provides a quantitative analysis of C2 morphology in DS patients compared with their peers without DS to identify differences that must be considered for the safe placement of instrumentation.

METHODS

A retrospective chart review identified age-matched patients with and without DS with a CT scan of the cervical spine. Three-dimensional reconstructions of these scans were made with images along the axis of, and perpendicular to, the pars, lamina, facet, and transverse foramen of C2 bilaterally. Two of the authors performed independent measurements of anatomical structures using these images, and the average of the 2 raters’ measurements was recorded. Pedicle height and width; pars axis length (the distance from the facet to the anterior vertebral body through the pars); pars rostrocaudal angle (angle of the pars axis length to the endplate of C2); pars axial angle (angle of the pars axis length to the median coronal plane); lamina height, length, and width; lamina angle (angle of the lamina length to the median coronal plane); and transverse foramen posterior distance (the distance from the posterior wall of the transverse foramen to the tangent of the posterior vertebral body) were measured bilaterally. Patients with and without DS were compared using a mixed-effects model accounting for patient height.

RESULTS

A total of 18 patients with and 20 patients without DS were included in the analysis. The groups were matched based on age and sex. The median height was 147 cm (IQR 142–160 cm) in the DS group and 165 cm (IQR 161–172 cm) in the non-DS group (p < 0.001). After accounting for variations in height, the mean pars rostrocaudal angle was greater (50.86° vs 45.54°, p = 0.004), the mean transverse foramen posterior distance was less (−1.5 mm vs +1.3 mm, p = 0.001), and the mean lamina width was less (6.2 mm vs 7.7 mm, p = 0.038) in patients with DS.

CONCLUSIONS

Patients with DS had a steeper rostrocaudal trajectory of the pars, a more posteriorly positioned transverse foramen posterior wall, and a narrower lamina compared with age- and sex-matched peers. These variations should be considered during surgical planning, as they may have implications to safe placement of instrumentation.

ABBREVIATIONS DS = Down syndrome; ES = effect size.

Article Information

Correspondence G. Alexander Jones: Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL. alexander.jones@lumc.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online November 23, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.8.SPINE18750.

Disclosures Dr. Nockels: consultant for Medtronic. Dr. Jones: grant from Medtronic through Loyola University Medical Center for an unrelated research project, stock ownership in InVivo Therapeutics, and honorarium for the Chicago Review Course.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

Headings

Figures

  • View in gallery

    CT scan of the upper cervical spine demonstrating measurement of the dimensions and angles of the pars and pedicle. A: Midsagittal view through the atlas and axis, with line a representing the plane of the endplate of the axis. B: Sagittal view through the pars and pedicle of the axis, with line b representing the course of the pars and pedicle. The pars rostrocaudal angle is the angle between lines a and b. C: Axial view through the axis at the level of the pedicle. Line c represents the pars axis length. Line d represents the midline. The pars axial angle is the angle between lines c and d. D: View perpendicular to the pedicle. The pedicle height is line e and the pedicle width is line f. The transverse foramen (TF) and transverse process (TP) are also visible. E: Axial view with line g representing the plane of the image seen in panel D.

  • View in gallery

    CT scan of the upper cervical spine demonstrating measurement of dimensions and angle of the lamina. A: Axial view with line a being the lamina length and line b representing the midline. The lamina angle is the angle between lines a and b. B: View perpendicular to the lamina. Lamina height is line c and lamina width is line d. C: Axial view with line e representing the plane of the image seen in panel B.

  • View in gallery

    CT scan of the upper cervical spine demonstrating measurement of the transverse foramen position. Line a is tangent to the posterior wall of the vertebral body. Line b is the transverse foramen posterior distance, measured from the tangent line a to the posterior wall of the transverse foramen.

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