Surgery Decreases Nonunion, Myelopathy, and Mortality for Patients With Traumatic Odontoid Fractures

Neurosurgery 93:546–554, 2023

Existing literature suggests that surgical intervention for odontoid fractures is beneficial but often does not control for known confounding factors.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of surgical fixation on myelopathy, fracture nonunion, and mortality after traumatic odontoid fractures.

METHODS: We analyzed all traumatic odontoid fractures managed at our institution between 2010 and 2020. Ordinal multivariable logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with myelopathy severity at follow-up. Propensity score analysis was used to test the treatment effect of surgery on nonunion and mortality.

RESULTS: Three hundred and three patients with traumatic odontoid fracture were identified, of whom 21.6% underwent surgical stabilization. After propensity score matching, populations were well balanced across all analyses (Rubin’s B < 25.0, 0.5 < Rubin’s R < 2.0). Controlling for age and fracture angulation, type, comminution, and displacement, the overall rate of nonunion was lower in the surgical group (39.7% vs 57.3%, average treatment effect [ATE] = À0.153 [À0.279, À0.028], P = .017). Controlling for age, sex, Nurick score, Charlson Comorbidity Index, Injury Severity Score, and selection for intensive care unit admission, the mortality rate was lower for the surgical group at 30 days (1.7% vs 13.8%, ATE = À0.101 [À0.172, À0.030], P = .005) and at 1 year was 7.0% vs 23.7%, ATE = À0.099 [À0.181, À0.017], P = .018. Cox proportional hazards analysis also demonstrated a mortality benefit for surgery (hazard ratio = 0.587 [0.426, 0.799], P = .0009). Patients who underwent surgery were less likely to have worse myelopathy scores at follow-up (odds ratio = 0.48 [0.25, 0.93], P = .029).

CONCLUSION: Surgical stabilization is associated with better myelopathy scores at follow-up and causes lower rates of fracture nonunion, 30-day mortality, and 1-year mortality.

Odontoid screw placement for Anderson type II odontoid fractures: how do duration from injury to surgery and clinical and radiological factors influence the union rate? A multicenter retrospective study

J Neurosurg Spine 34:27–31, 2021

Anderson type II odontoid fractures are severe conditions, mostly affecting elderly people (≥ 70 years old). Surgery can be performed as a primary treatment or in cases of failed conservative management. This study aimed to investigate how duration from injury to surgery, as well as clinical, radiological, and surgical risk factors, may influence the union rate after anterior odontoid screw placement for Anderson type II odontoid fractures.

METHODS The authors conducted a retrospective multicenter study. Demographic, clinical, surgical, and radiological data of patients who underwent anterior odontoid screw placement for Anderson type II fractures were retrieved from institutional databases. Study exclusion criteria were prolonged corticosteroid drug therapy (> 4 weeks), polytraumatic injuries, oncological diagnosis, and prior cervical spine trauma.

RESULTS Eighty-five patients were included in the present investigation. The union rate was 76.5%, and 73 patients (85.9%) did not report residual instability. Age ≥ 70 years (p < 0.001, OR 6), female gender (p = 0.016, OR 3.61), osteoporosis (p = 0.009, OR 4.02), diabetes (p = 0.056, OR 3.35), fracture diastasis > 1 mm (p < 0.001, OR 8.5), and duration from injury to surgery > 7 days (p = 0.002, OR 48) independently influenced union rate, whereas smoking status (p = 0.677, OR 1.24) and odontoid process angulation > 10° (p = 0.885, OR 0.92) did not.

CONCLUSIONS Although many factors have been reported as influencing the union rate after anterior odontoid screw placement for Anderson type II fractures, duration from injury to surgery > 7 days appears to be the most relevant, resulting in a 48 times higher risk for nonunion. Early surgery appears to be associated with better radiological outcomes, as reported by orthopedic surgeons in other districts. Prospective comparative clinical trials are needed to confirm these results.

Endoscopic endonasal odontoid resection with real-time intraoperative image-guided computed tomography

J Neurosurg 128:1486–1491, 2018

The authors present 4 cases in which they used intraoperative CT (iCT) scanning to provide real-time image guidance during endonasal odontoid resection. While intraoperative CT has previously been used as a confirmatory test after resection, to the authors’ knowledge this is the first time it has been used to provide real-time image guidance during endonasal odontoid resection. The operating room setup, as well as the advantages and pitfalls of this approach, are discussed.

A mobile intraoperative CT scanner was used in conjunction with real-time craniospinal neuronavigation in 4 patients who underwent endoscopic endonasal odontoidectomy for basilar invagination. All patients underwent a successful decompression.

In 3 of the 4 patients, real-time intraoperative CT image guidance was instrumental in achieving a comprehensive decompression. In 3 (75%) cases in which the right nostril was the predominant working channel, there was a tendency for asymmetrical decompression toward the right side, meaning that residual bone was seen on the left, which was subsequently removed prior to completion of the surgery.

Endoscopic endonasal odontoid resection with real-time intraoperative image-guided CT scanning is feasible and provides accurate intraoperative localization of pathology, thereby increasing the chance of a complete odontoidectomy. For right-handed surgeons operating predominantly through the right nostril, special attention should be paid to the contralateral side of the resection, where there is often a tendency for residual pathology.

Management of Odontoid Fractures in the Elderly

Neurosurgery 82:419–430, 2018

Odontoid fractures are the most common fracture of the axis and the most common cervical spine fracture in patients over 65. Despite their frequency, there is considerable ambiguity regarding optimal management strategies for these fractures in the elderly. Poor bone health and medical comorbidities contribute to increased surgical risk in this population; however, nonoperative management is associated with a risk of nonunion or fibrous union.

We provide a review of the existing literature and discuss the classi- fication and evaluation of odontoid fractures. The merits of operative vs nonoperative management, fibrous union, and the choice of operative approach in elderly patients are discussed. A treatment algorithm is presented based on the available literature.

We believe that type I and type III odontoid fractures can be managed in a collar in most cases. Type II fractures with any additonal risk factors for nonunion (displacement, comminution, etc) should be considered for surgical management. However, the risks of surgery in an elderly population must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. In a frail elderly patient, a fibrous nonunion with close follow-up is an acceptable outcome. If operative management is chosen, a posterior approach is should be chosen when fracture- or patient-related factors make an anterior approach challenging.

The high levels of morbidity and mortality associated with odontoid fractures should encourage all providers to pursue medical co- management and optimization of bone health following diagnosis.

Endoscopic endonasal resection of the odontoid process

J Neurosurg 128:923–931, 2018

Treatment of odontoid disease from a ventral corridor has consisted of a transoral approach. More recently, the endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA) has been used to access odontoid pathology.

METHODS A retrospective review was conducted of patients who underwent an EEA for odontoid pathology from 2004 to 2013. During our analysis, the mean follow-up duration was 42.6 months (range 1–80 months). Patient outcomes, complications, and postoperative swallowing function were assessed either by clinic visit or phone contact.

RESULTS Thirty-four patients underwent an EEA for symptomatic odontoid pathology. The most common pathology treated was basilar invagination (n = 17). Other pathologies included odontoid fractures, os odontoideum, and metastatic carcinoma. The mean patient age was 71.5 years. Thirty-one patients underwent a posterior fusion. All 34 patients experienced stability or improvement in symptoms and all had successful radiographic decompression. The overall complication rate was 76%. Nearly all of these complications were transient (86%) and the overall complication rate excluding mild transient dysphagia was only 44%. Twenty-one patients (62%) suffered from transient postoperative dysphagia: 15 cases were mild, transient subjective dysphagia (6 of whom had documented preoperative dysphagia), whereas 6 other patients required tube feedings for decreased oral intake, malnutrition, and dysphagia in the perioperative setting (5 of these patients had documented preoperative dysphagia). Sixteen patients had documented preoperative dysphagia and 6 of these had lower cranial nerve dysfunction. Postoperatively, 6 (37.5%) of 16 patients with preoperative dysphagia and 4 (67%) of 6 with lower cranial nerve dysfunction had significant dysphagia/respiratory complications. Eighteen patients had no documented preoperative dysphagia and only 2 had significant postoperative dysphagia/respiratory complications (11%). The rates of these complications in patients without preoperative dysphagia were lower than in those with any preoperative dysphagia (p = 0.07) and especially those with preexisting lower cranial neuropathies (p = 0.007). Dysphagia was also significantly more common in patients who underwent occipitocervical fixation (19/26, 73%) than in patients who underwent cervical fusion alone or no fusion (2/8, 25%; p = 0.02). All patients with perioperative dysphagia had improved at follow-up and all patients were tolerating oral diets. No patient suffered from velopalatal insufficiency. Two patients had intraoperative CSF leaks. One of these patients underwent a negative exploratory surgery for a questionable postoperative CSF leak. One patient developed infection in the resection bed requiring debridement and antibiotics. One patient died 8 days following surgery from an unknown cause. The 90-day perioperative mortality rate was 2.9%.

CONCLUSIONS A completely EEA can be performed for compressive odontoid disease in all cases of neoplastic, degenerative, or invaginative atlantoaxial disease with satisfactory outcomes and low morbidity. Transient perioperative dysphagia and respiratory complications are common, usually as an exacerbation and reflection of underlying disease or occipitocervical fusion rather than the EEA, emphasizing the importance of avoiding transoral surgery.

Atlantoaxial instability in acute odontoid fractures is associated with nonunion and mortality


The Spine Journal 15 (2015) 910–917

Odontoid fractures are the most common geriatric cervical spine fractures. Nonunion rates have been reported to be up to 40% and mortality up to 35%, and poor functional outcomes are common. Atlantoaxial instability (AAI) is a plausible prognostic factor, but its role has not been previously examined.

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of severe AAI on the outcomes of nonunion and mortality in patients with acute odontoid fractures.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort/single institution.

PATIENT SAMPLE: One hundred twenty-four consecutive patients with acute odontoid fractures.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of nonunion and mortality.

METHODS: Two independent blinded reviewers measured AAI using postinjury computed tomography scans. Patients were classified as having ‘‘severe’’ or ‘‘minimal’’ AAI on the basis of greater versus less than or equal to 50% mean subluxation across each C1–C2 facet joint. Rates of nonunion and mortality were compared using independent samples t tests and adjusted for age, displacement, and subtype using binary logistic regression.

RESULTS: One hundred seven patients had minimal AAI and 17 had severe AAI. Mean follow-up was 4.4 months (standard deviation54.6). Patients with severe AAI were more likely to experience nonunion (29% vs. 10%, respectively; p5.03) and mortality (35% vs. 14%, respectively; p5.03) regardless of treatment modality. Fracture displacement correlated with AAI (r250.65). When adjusted for patient age, the odds ratio of nonunion with severe AAI approached significance at 3.3 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.9–11.7). Mortality prediction with AAI approached a twofold increased risk (odds ratio52.1; 95% CI: 0.6–6.8). In patients with Type-II fractures, the odds of mortality with severe AAI approached a threefold higher risk (odds ratio53.3; 95% CI: 0.9–12.3).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with acute odontoid fractures and severe AAI may be more likely to experience nonunion and mortality, suggesting the possibility that aggressive management could be warranted. Further investigation with a large prospective study including patient-important functional outcomes is justified. 

The endoscopic endonasal approach to the odontoid and its impact on early extubation and feeding

The endoscopic endonasal approach to the odontoid and its impact on early extubation and feeding-1

J Neurosurg 122:511–518, 2015

The gold-standard surgical approach to the odontoid is via the transoral route. This approach necessitates opening of the oropharynx and is associated with risks of infection, and swallowing and breathing complications. The endoscopic endonasal approach has the potential to reduce these complications as the oral cavity is avoided. There are fewer than 25 such cases reported to date. The authors present a consecutive, single-institution series of 9 patients who underwent the endonasal endoscopic approach to the odontoid.

Methods The charts of 9 patients who underwent endonasal endoscopic surgery to the odontoid between January 2005 and August 2013 were reviewed. The clinical presentation, radiographic findings, surgical management, complications, and outcome, particularly with respect to time to extubation and feeding, were analyzed. Radiographic measurements of the distance between the back of the odontoid and the front of the cervicomedullary junction (CMJ) were calculated, as well as the location of any residual bone fragments.

Results There were 7 adult and 2 pediatric patients in this series. The mean age of the adults was 54.8 years; the pediatric patients were 7 and 14 years. There were 5 females and 4 males. The mean follow-up was 42.9 months. Symptoms were resolved or improved in all but 1 patient, who had concurrent polyneuropathy. The distance between the odontoid and CMJ increased by 2.34 ± 0.43 mm (p = 0.03). A small, clinically insignificant fragment remained after surgery, always on the left side, in 57% of patients. Mean times to extubation and oral feeding were on postoperative Days 0.3 and 1, respectively. There was one posterior cervical wound infection; there were 2 cases of epistaxis requiring repacking of the nose and no instances of breathing or swallowing complications or velopharyngeal insufficiency.

Conclusions This series of 9 cases of endonasal endoscopic odontoidectomy highlights the advantages of the approach in permitting early extubation and early feeding and minimizing complications compared with transoral surgery. Special attention must be given to bone on the left side of the odontoid if the surgeon is standing on the right side.

A Review of Complications Associated With Craniocervical Fusion Surgery

Neurosurgery 67:1396–1403, 2010 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181f1ec73

Fusion at the craniovertebral junction is performed to treat instability of the upper cervical spine and occiput. The literature consists exclusively of case series in which complication rate and avoidance are variably addressed.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the rates of various complications encountered during craniocervical fusions and discuss preoperative and perioperative strategies useful for risk reduction. METHODS: A computerized search of PubMed for literature on craniocervical fusion and other upper cervical fusions was performed. Keywords used in the search included: occipitocervical fusion, odontoid screw, atlantoaxial fusion, with and without complications, anterior fixation, lateral mass screw, transarticular screw, halo, vertebral artery injury, and odontoid fracture. References were limited to studies on human subjects. Other sources were identified from the reference lists of relevant publications.

RESULTS: Twenty-two reports described data derived from 2274 procedures analyzed for complications. The most commonly encountered perioperative complications were related to instrumentation failure after nonunion with rates as high as 7% during occipitocervical fusion and 6.7% during atlantoaxial fusion. Other commonly encountered complications included injury to the vertebral artery (1.3%-4.1% during placement of C1-C2 transarticular screws, most commonly in the case of high-riding vertebral artery), dural tears, and wound infection.

CONCLUSION: Occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion procedures can be performed with low morbidity. Safety is enhanced with appropriate preoperative assessment of anatomic variants and preparation for perioperative management of complications.