Odontoid fractures currently account for 9–15% of all adult cervical spine fractures, with type II fractures accounting for the majority of these injuries. Despite recent advances in internal fixation techniques, the management of type II fractures still remains controversial with advocates still supporting non-rigid immobilization as the definitive treatment of these injuries. At the NSIU, over an 11-year period between 1 July 1996 and 30 June 2006, 66 patients (n = 66) were treated by external immobilization for type II odontoid fractures. The medical records, radiographs and CT scans of all patients identified were reviewed. Clinical follow-up evaluation was performed using the Cervical Spine Outcomes Questionnaire (CSOQ). The objectives of this study were to evaluate the long-term functional outcome of patients suffering isolated type II odontoid fractures managed non-operatively and to correlate patient age and device type with clinical and functional outcome. Of the 66 patients, there were 42 males and 24 females (M:F = 1.75:1) managed non-operatively for type II odontoid fractures. The mean follow-up time was 66 months. Advancing age was highly correlated with poorer long-term functional outcomes when assessing neck pain (r = 0.19, P = 0.1219), shoulder and arm pain (r = 0.41, P = 0.0007), physical symptoms (r = 0.25, P = 0.472), functional disability (r = 0.24, P = 0.0476) and psychological distress (r = 0.41, P = 0.0007). Patients >65 years displayed a higher rate of pseudoarthrosis (21.43 vs. 1.92%) and established non-union (7.14 vs. 0%) than patients <65 years. The non-operative management of type II odontoid fractures is an effective and satisfactory method of treating type II odontoid fractures, particularly those of a stable nature. However, patients of advancing age have been demonstrated to have significantly poorer functional outcomes in the long term. This may be linked to higher rates of non-union.
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