A patient presented with selective paralysis of the arms after having sustained a fall. X-ray of the cervical spine showed a type II odontoid fracture with posterior atlantoaxial dislocation. The diagnosis in the emergency room was cruciate paralysis, which is frequently associated with fractures of axis and/or atlas. However, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the cervical spine revealed a lesion consistent with the acute central cord syndrome (CCS) at the C2-C6 level. The patient underwent posterior atlantoaxial arthrodesis to correct instability and was discharged, without much neurological improvement. Cruciate paralysis has been reported to be associated with fractures of axis and/or atlas, and acute CCS has rarely been associated with the fractures. However, this case illustrates that the lesion responsible for selective paralysis of the upper extremities is not as specific as it had been thought to be, and that it is difficult to accurately identify the level of the cervical cord injury by neurological diagnosis and X-rays alone. Supplementary diagnostic modalities, particularly MRI, are required to make a correct diagnosis and develop a therapeutic strategy.
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