Combined anterior C2-C3 fusion and C2 pedicle screw fixation for the treatment of unstable hangman's fracture: a contrast to anterior approach only

Ning Xie, Larry T Khoo, Wen Yuan, Xiao-Jian Ye, De-Yu Chen, Jian-Ru Xiao, Bin Ni
Spine 2010 March 15, 35 (6): 613-9

STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective clinical study was used to evaluate the effect of a new surgical treatment of the hangman's fractures.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the treatment efficacy of combined anterior C2-C3 reduction and fusion and posterior compressive C2 pedicle screw fixation for the management of unstable hangman's fractures.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: The classification of hangman's fractures as proposed by Levine-Edwards was used to classify and guide the treatment of these injuries. Most of these fractures respond to a variety of conservative therapies, but recently, earlier surgery has been increasingly advocated by authors from several countries for the rapid stabilization of these fractures. If surgery is indicated, an anterior approach using a C2-C3 reduction and fusion is preferred usually. Another well-accepted surgical method is the direct transpedicular osteosynthesis by the dorsal approach. However, there was rare report of the combined use of these 2 techniques.

METHODS: A group of 45 surgical patients were all diagnosed with radiograph, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and 3D CT scans. Initial and final radiographs were measured for anterior translation and angulation of the C2-C3 complex. Initial external skull traction with extension was used in all patients after admission to reduce the fracture. Then an anterior C2-C3 discectomy followed by an interbody fusion and locking plate fixation was performed. Intraoperative reduction was confirmed by fluoroscopic control. About 29 patients therefore received anterior surgeries only since satisfactory reduction was achieved during the procedure. For the 16 patients who had persistent large residual gaps after the anterior procedure, additional same stage posterior C2 compressive pedicle screws were placed. Clinical and radiologic comparisons were performed in these 2 groups.

RESULTS: The follow-up ranged from 24 to 54 months, with an average 33.6 months. There was radiographic evidence of continuity of the fracture and the bone graft seen at 4.7 months on average. Neck pain and neurologic deficits resolved in nearly all patients after surgery. The anterior translation of anterior-posterior surgery group decreased more significant compared to anterior surgery group, although with no statistical significance. The fractures were closed with a slight gap no more than 2 mm in anterior-posterior surgery group. The residual kyphosis in anterior-posterior surgery group was still a little larger than it in anterior surgery group. No internal fixation failures or infections were observed.

CONCLUSION: We believe that the need for single stage 360° fusion of hangman's fractures can be somewhat predicted by a combination of high resolution imaging. For hangman's fractures with significant deformity and gapping, it is our experience that immediate single-stage anterior-posterior reduction, instrumentation, and arthrodesis achieve superior postoperative reduction and long-term functional outcomes.

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