The Anterior Transarticular Fixation of C1/C2 in the Elderly With Dens Fractures

Oliver Gembruch, Yahya Ahmadipour, Elias Lemonas, Oliver Müller
International Journal of Spine Surgery 2020, 14 (2): 162-169

Background: Anterior transarticular screw fixation (ATSF) of C1/C2 can be used for the treatment of unstable dens fractures. Here, we evaluated the feasibility of an anterior C1/C2 fixation in elderly patients with unstable dens fractures. Furthermore, we tried to analyze safe entry zones for ATSF surgery.

Methods: A consecutive cohort of 13 patients with unstable dens fractures were treated with ATSF of C1/C2 between January 2015 and October 2016. If necessary, an additional screw was placed into the odontoid process. The placement was radiographically analyzed using the 3D Arcadis Orbic (Siemens, Erlangen, Germany). Additionally, computed tomography scans of the cervical spine from 50 trauma patients were analyzed to evaluate safe entry zones for anterior odontoid screw fixation and for ATSF.

Results: ATSF was performed in 13 cases (7 female, 6 male; mean age 81.80 years). One screw had to be corrected intraoperatively due to initial malplacement. Neurological deficits or an injury of the vertebral artery were not observed. All patients suffered from swallowing difficulties during the postoperative course, without lesions of the esophagus or the trachea. In 4 patients (30.8%), an additional posterior fixation was offered to the patients due to progressive loosening of the screws.The anatomical-radiographic analyzes revealed a significantly shallower angle of trajectory for anterior odontoid screw fixation (24.9° ± 5.85°) than for ATSF (39.1° ± 6.44° (left); 40.5° ± 6.79° (right) P = 0.02).

Conclusions: The ATSF of C1/C2 might be a valuable option in the treatment of instable C1/C2 fractures, especially in the elderly or in patients with short necks and/or high body mass index due to the steeper trajectory compared with odontoid screw placement. Yet available screws seem to be of inferior resistance compared with the biomechanical properties of a dorsal fixation. Further studies should focus on screws with better mechanical properties and probably additional cement augmentation.

Level of Evidence: 4.

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