Occipital condyle fractures. Prospective follow-up of 31 cases within 5 years at a level 1 trauma centre

Eur Spine J (2012) 21:289–294. DOI 10.1007/s00586-011-1963-7
Prospective investigation of incidence and outcome of occipital condyle fractures (OCF) in a level 1 trauma centre.
Methods  Over a period of 5 years, we prospectively recorded all cases of OCF, and performed a 1-year postinjury radiological and clinical follow-up using CT imaging, SF-36 and Neck Disability Index, respectively.
Results  A total of 31 patients with OCF were identified. Based on a total of 2,616 CT scans that had been performed during this period, the incidence was 1.19%. There were 27 unilateral and 4 bilateral OCFs. Furthermore, 3 out of 31 patients (9.7%) were additionally diagnosed with atlantooccipital dislocation (AOD), one of which was dorsally stabilised in a surgical procedure. All other patients were treated conservatively. 5 out of 31 patients (16.1%) died due to the severity of associated injuries. 22 out of 31 patients (70.9%) were prospectively followed-up for 1 year after trauma. During this period, CT imaging showed bony consolidation of fractures in all cases except for one, with no evidence of secondary dislocation or nonunion. Evaluation of the Neck Disability Index showed moderate disability. The SF-36 questionnaire showed an impaired quality of life in all areas; however, these were determined by associated injuries and independent of the type of fracture.
Conclusions  Both unilateral and bilateral OCFs represent a stable injury regardless of the type of fracture. If AOD has been diagnosed in addition, it requires surgical stabilisation—independent of the OCF—and it is a significant predictor for poor outcomes. The patients quality of life 1 year after trauma has not been affected by the OCF, but by the overall pattern of the injury and by comorbidities. Based on our results, we introduce a new, simple and practical classification for OCFs

Occipital condyle fractures: clinical decision rule and surgical management

JNS Spine DOI: 10.3171/2009.5.SPINE08866

Object. Occipital condyle fractures (OCFs) are rare injuries and their treatment remains controversial. Several classification systems have been proposed, first by Anderson and Montesano and more recently by Tuli and colleagues and Hanson and associates, who sought to stratify these fractures in a manner that would guide treatment that has typically ranged from semirigid collar immobilization to halo fixation or occipitocervical fusion. It has been the authors’ impression, based on experience with OCFs at their institution, that classification is cumbersome and contributes little to the clinical decision-making process, while the identification of craniocervical misalignment and neural element compromise is paramount, and sufficient, for the planning of treatment.

Methods. The authors performed a retrospective review of 24,745 consecutive trauma presentations to a single Level I trauma center (UPMC Presbyterian Hospital) over a 6-year period, identifying 100 patients with 106 OCFs. All patients were evaluated by the spine trauma service and underwent imaging of the craniocervical junction using reconstructed CT scans. Patient characteristics, fracture characteristics (including fracture classification according to the 2 major classification systems), initial management, and status at follow-up were recorded.

Results. The incidence of OCF in this trauma population was 0.4%. Two patients had evidence of craniocervical misalignment on reconstructed CT imaging at the time of admission; both patients underwent occipitocervical fusion. One patient underwent occipitocervical fusion for unrelated C1–2 fractures. The remainder of those surviving to discharge, whose fractures represented all fracture subtypes, received treatment with a rigid cervical collar or counseling alone. No patients, including 4 patients with bilateral OCFs, were found to have developed delayed craniocervical instability or misalignment on follow-up, or to require further neurosurgical intervention for an OCF. Neural element compression was not identified in any of the patients, and there were no cases of delayed cranial neuropathy.

Conclusions. Beyond the identification of craniocervical misalignment on reconstructed CT scans at admission, further classification of OCFs is unnecessary. Management should consist of up-front occipitocervical fusion or halo fixation in cases demonstrating occipitocervical misalignment, or of immobilization in a rigid cervical collar followed by delayed clinical and radiographic evaluation in a spine trauma clinic if misalignment is not present.