Anterior management of C2 fractures using miniplate fixation: outcome, function and quality of life in a case series of 15 patients

Axel Franke, Dan Bieler, Rebecca Wern, Tim Trotzke, Sebastian Hentsch, Erwin Kollig
European Spine Journal 2018, 27 (6): 1332-1341

PURPOSE: The classification systems by Anderson and D'Alonzo, Effendi, Benzel and others have limitations when it comes to morphologically categorising fractures of the second cervical vertebral body (C2) that present with or without an additional fracture of the dens or with or without an extension of the fracture line into the vertebral arch and displacement. Currently, there are no definitive recommendations for the treatment of fractures at the junction of the dens with the vertebral body of C2 on the basis of outcome and stability data. Depending on patient anatomy, either anterior or posterior approaches can be used to fuse C1 and C2 and to achieve definitive surgical stabilisation. The anterior management of C2 fractures without C1-C2 fusion has the theoretical advantage that it preserves rotational motion at this motion segment and that the anterior approach is associated with lower morbidity. In the study presented here, we followed up a group of our patients who underwent anterior miniplate fixation for C2 fractures.

METHODS: Fifteen patients underwent fixation of C2 fractures with titanium miniplates (Medartis Hand fixation system, 2.0 or 2.3 mm) that were placed using a submental approach. To our knowledge, this construct has not yet been described in the literature. Where necessary, this procedure was combined with screw fixation of the dens as described by Böhler. We retrospectively analysed operative reports and medical records, evaluated the patients' health status using the Short Form (36) Health Survey (SF-36), and performed clinical follow-up examinations.

RESULTS: From January 2009 to June 2015, 226 traumatic lesions of the cervical spine were managed at our institution in the inpatient setting. Ninety-two patients underwent conservative treatment. Of the 134 cases that required surgery for fractures and instability, 67 involved the C0-C3 motion segments. In 15 patients, stability was achieved using an anterior miniplate or miniscrews alone (n = 4) or in addition to other techniques (n = 11). Anderson and D'Alonzo type II and III dens fractures with involvement of the body or lateral mass of C2 accounted for eight cases. Effendi type II body fractures with or without instability were seen in four cases. There was no perioperative mortality and morbidity in this patient group. All fractures healed and stability was achieved in all cases. No patient had neurological deficits or required revision surgery. An assessment of postoperative quality of life showed that 11 patients (7 men, 4 women) with a mean age of 57 (± 5.3) years reached an SF-36 score that was normal for their age group after a mean period of 33 (± 6.3) months following their injury. Compared to a group of healthy subjects, the patients had a range of motion that was limited only at the extremes.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with appropriate indications, anterior fixation with miniplates alone or additionally is a further useful treatment option in the management of fractures at the junction of the dens with the vertebral body of C2. Since this type of treatment preserves motion at the C1-C2 motion segment after fracture healing and since an anterior approach is associated with less surgical trauma than posterior instrumentation, the technique presented here should be included in a discussion on (surgical) treatment options. These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.

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