Introduction: Although pedicle or lateral mass screws are usually chosen to fix atlantoaxial (C1-C2) instability, there is an increased risk for vertebral artery (VA) injury when used in patients with bone or arterial anomalies or osteoporotic bone. Here we report the C1 posterior arch screw as a new technique for upper cervical fixation.
Case description: A 90-year-old man complained of upper cervical pain after falling in his house. The initial computed tomography (CT) scan showed C1-C2 posterior dislocation with a type II odontoid fracture. The patient underwent C2 fracture reduction and posterior C1-C2 fixation. On the right side of C1, because lateral mass screw placement could cause injury to the dominant VA considering a risk in oldest-old osteoporotic patients, a posterior arch screw was chosen instead as an auxiliary anchor. An intralaminar screw was placed on the right side of C2 because a high-riding VA was observed. A lateral mass screw and a pars interarticularis screw were placed on the left side of C1 and C2, respectively. Ten months later, the odontoid fracture had healed, with normal anatomical alignment. Although the patient experienced slight weakness when spreading his bilateral fingers, his overall condition was good.
Conclusions: Although there have been few comparable studies, and the long-term outcome is unknown, fixation with a posterior arch screw could be a beneficial choice for surgeries involving the upper cervical region.
Discussion and evaluation: We have presented a novel technique using C1 posterior arch screws for the fixation of a C1-C2 dislocation. Such a screw is an alternative to the C1 lateral mass screw in patients who are at risk for a VA injury because of anomalous bone and arterial structures or poor bone quality.
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