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JOURNAL OF NEUROSURGICAL SCIENCES
Rivista di Neurochirurgia
Indexed/Abstracted in: e-psyche, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Neuroscience Citation Index, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
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Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences 2000 December;44(4):192-202
Therapeutic indications in upper cervical spine instability. Considerations on 58 cases
Marton E., Billeci D., Carteri A.
Neurosurgical Department, “Ca’ Foncello” Hospital, Treviso, Italy
Background. The particular biomechanics of the upper cervical spine require, when trauma occurs, careful evaluation of the stability of the lesions, in order to guarantee the best possible therapeutic and prognostic approach. To date, there has been no uniformity of opinion in merit, especially with reference to treatment of odontoid fractures. It is necessary for this reason as much as for the opportune standardisation of the patients’ classification parameters to establish what is meant by stability and which lesions are to be held as being unstable in the upper cervical spine.
Methods. All the cases of upper cervical spine instability treated in our Unit from ’94 to date have been reviewed. Four fractures to the first cervical vertebra, 29 to the odontoid process, 9 isolated fractures in the C2 body, 12 hangman fractures, 7 fractures of the articular processes, 2 to the occipital condyles and 4 C1-C2 dislocations without fractures were localised. Using precise prognostic indexes as our classification criteria, 56 of the 58 patients observed were addressed towards either conservative treatment or directly towards surgical treatment. In particular, 29 patients were conservatively treated with a collar or Halo-Vest. Twenty-seven surgical operations were carried out: 14 screw fixations, 6 anterior fixations using plates and screws, 4 rear ones using metal wire or wire with bone graft, 3 odontectomy operations associated with posterior fixation.
Results. In the follow-up, using a range of between three months to six years, good fusion with spine stabilisation was achieved in all the patients treated. In particular, surgery was carried out as the first therapeutic indication in 25 cases, obtaining excellent results. Surgery was necessary in only 2 cases after the failure of external stabilisation.
Conclusions. The judgement passed on instability in traumatic lesions in the upper cervical spine represents the decisive factor in the choice of the therapeutic option. Instead of always opting for conservative treatment, in the case of C1-C2 fractures-luxations, and going ahead with surgery only when there is instability or non-fusion of the segments resulting after successive monitoring, we believe that the definition and standardisation of the prognostic factors is opportune, in order to provide patients with a specific solution, in such a way as to reduce the failure percentage of the first treatment and optimise the healing time.