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High Cervical Disc Lesions in Elderly Patients – Presentation and Surgical Approach


 The incidence of high cervical disc lesions is extremely rare, and the mechanism of their development is unclear. We report these three cases, and discuss the possible mechanisms. We also describe surgical strategies for these lesions.

 The first and second cases were an 82-year-old male and an 84-year-old male with retro-odontoid disc hernia. The third was an 83-year-old female with a herniated disc at C2/C3. To investigate Aetiological mechanisms of these lesions, we examined the findings on cervical images in extension and flexion, and compared the results in a younger than 80-year-old group and an older than 80-year-old group.

 The patients underwent surgery via a posterolateral intradural approach. Wide laminectomy and incision of the dentate ligaments enabled access to the ventral space of the upper cervical spinal canal and sufficient decompression. All patients became ambulatory postoperatively without special fixation of the cervical spine. In the younger group, the level mostly loaded during cervical movement was C5/6, however, the levels in the older group were C2/3 and C3/4.

 In elderly patients, less mobilization of the middle and/or lower cervical spine due to spondylotic change causes overloading at higher levels resulting in high cervical disc lesions. Retro-odontoid disc lesions can be caused by a herniated disc at C2/C3, which migrates upward. Regarding surgical strategy, the posterolateral intradural approach is less invasive and more advantageous for these lesions.

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Nishizawa, S., Yokoyama, T., Yokota, N. et al. High Cervical Disc Lesions in Elderly Patients – Presentation and Surgical Approach. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 141, 119–126 (1999).

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