Yoshihisa Kotani, Kuniyoshi Abumi, Manabu Ito, Akio Minami

November 2004, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 69 - 77 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-004-0793-2

First Online: 03 November 2004

To clarify the injury pattern, initial spinal instability, degree of discoligamentous injuries in cervical lateral mass and facet joint fractures, we retrospectively analyzed radiological parameters and introduced a new classification for these injuries. Surgical treatment was performed with cervical pedicle screw fixation (CPS), and overall neurological and radiological outcome was evaluated with a minimum follow-up period of 2 years. Lateral mass fractures were divided into the following four subtypes: separation, comminution, split, and traumatic spondylolysis. The sagittal and frontal alignments were evaluated at both mainly injured and adjacent spinal segments on radiographs. The initial discoligamentous injuries were investigated on magnetic resonance imaging in terms of their frequencies, subtype of injuries, and involved spinal levels. Anterior translation of fractured vertebra was demonstrated in 77% of lateral mass fractures, while 24% of anterior translation was observed, even in cephalad-adjacent vertebrae. On magnetic resonance imaging, signal changes in anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL) and intervertebral disc were demonstrated in 76% of caudal segments and 24% of cephalad segments adjacent to fractured vertebra of lateral mass fractures. The subtype analyses of lateral mass fractures demonstrated high rates of anterior translation in separation, split, and traumatic spondylolisthesis, as well as significant coronal malalignment in comminution and split types (p<0.05). Thirty-one patients underwent surgical treatments using a cervical pedicle screw fixation. The CPS provided the superior capability of deformity correction without pseudoarthrosis, as well as excellent neurological recovery. The average numbers of stabilized segments were minimized without serious complications. In separation, facet joint fracture, and fractures with mild lateral mass comminution, the single level posterior fixation can be considered. The significant unstable injuries of split and comminution type with coronal malalignment can be treated with exclusive two-level posterior stabilization with CPS. The initial evaluation of fracture subtypes helps to successfully minimize the stabilized spinal segment.

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