Atlantoaxial Screw Fixation for the Treatment of Isolated and Combined Unstable Jefferson Fractures – Experiences with 8 Patients
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- Hein, C., Richter, HP. & Rath, S. Acta Neurochir (Wien) (2002) 144: 1187. doi:10.1007/s00701-002-0998-2
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The unstable atlas burst fracture (“Jefferson fracture”) is a fracture of the anterior and posterior atlantal arch with rupture of the transverse atlantal ligament and an incongruence of the atlanto-occipital and the atlanto-axial joint facets. The question whether it has to be treated surgically or nonsurgically is still discussed and remains controversial. During the last decade 8 patients with unstable atlas burst fractures were examined and treated in our department. Five of the eight patients were first treated conservatively by external immobilization. Because of continuing instability due to insufficient bony fusion of the atlantal fracture all five patients underwent atlanto-axial transarticular screw fixation and fusion – as described by Magerl – with good results. In all 8 patients a good bony fusion of the atlanto-axial segment was achieved. None of the patients exhibited neurological deficits after surgical treatment.
Although immobilization with a halo vest is recommended by most authors, from our view primary transarticular C1–C2 screw fixation has to be discussed as an alternative for unstable atlas burst fractures. Nonsurgical treatment with halo extension always bears the risk of insufficient healing with further instability and a fixated incongruence of the atlanto-occipital and the atlanto-axial joints, leading to arthrosis, immobility and increasing neck pain. After 10 weeks of insufficient immobilization secondary pre- and intra-operative reposition manoeuvres and surgical fixation hardly can reverse this fixated incongruence. Moreover, halo-extension needs an immobilization of the cervical spine for about 10 weeks and more, which is very uncomfortable and leads to further complications especially in elderly patients.