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Atlantoaxial immobilization in rheumatoid arthritis: a prophylactic procedure?


Timing of surgical intervention in atlantoaxial instability due to rheumatoid arthritis is still controversial. An aim of this study was to investigate whether atlantoaxial fusion can prevent progression of instability and upward migration of the dens. Thirty-two patients with rheumatoid arthritis, who underwent posterior atlantoaxial fixation due to instability, were clinically and radiologically examined after a minimum follow-up of 5 years. The radiological measurements focussed on the extent of cranial vertical migration after atlantoaxial fusion. In none of the 20 patients available for follow-up examination was a vertical cranial migration observed, in spite of the ongoing course of the disease. These findings are in concordance with findings in the literature, and strongly suggest that, with atlantoaxial stabilization, the inflammatory process with destruction of the lateral masses of the atlas is able to prevent further deterioration with vertical cranial ¶migration.

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Received: 7 January 2000/Revised: 7 April 2000/Accepted: 28 April 2000

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Grob, D. Atlantoaxial immobilization in rheumatoid arthritis: a prophylactic procedure?. E Spine J 9, 404–409 (2000).

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  • Key words Atlantoaxial instability
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Indication for surgery
  • Vertical migration