Aebi, M. Eur Spine J (2010) 19(Suppl 1): 33. doi:10.1007/s00586-009-1120-8
The goals of any treatment of cervical spine injuries are: return to maximum functional ability, minimum of residual pain, decrease of any neurological deficit, minimum of residual deformity and prevention of further disability. The advantages of surgical treatment are the ability to reach optimal reduction, immediate stability, direct decompression of the cord and the exiting roots, the need for only minimum external fixation, the possibility for early mobilisation and clearly decreased nursing problems. There are some reasons why those goals can be reached better by anterior surgery. Usually the bony compression of the cord and roots comes from the front therefore anterior decompression is usually the procedure of choice. Also, the anterior stabilisation with a plate is usually simpler than a posterior instrumentation. It needs to be stressed that closed reduction by traction can align the fractured spine and indirectly decompress the neural structures in about 70%. The necessary weight is 2.5 kg per level of injury. In the upper cervical spine, the odontoid fracture type 2 is an indication for anterior surgery by direct screw fixation. Joint C1/C2 dislocations or fractures or certain odontoid fractures can be treated with a fusion of the C1/C2 joint by anterior transarticular screw fixation. In the lower and middle cervical spine, anterior plating combined with iliac crest or fibular strut graft is the procedure of choice, however, a solid graft can also be replaced by filled solid or expandable vertebral cages. The complication of this surgery is low, when properly executed and anterior surgery may only be contra-indicated in case of a significant lesion or locked joints.