Matthias Gebauer, Florian Barvencik, Daniel Briem, Jan P. Kolb, Sebastian Seitz, Johannes M. Rueger, Klaus Püschel, Michael Amling

October 2009, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 85 - 90 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-009-1181-8

First Online: 31 October 2009

Several studies have evaluated quantitative anatomic data for direct lateral mass screw fixation. To analyze anatomic landmarks and safe zones for optimal screw placement through the posterior arc of the human atlas, morphometric parameters of 41 adult native human atlas specimens were quantitatively measured. Internal dimensions of the atlas (lateral mass, maximum and minimum intraosseous screw length), minimum height and width of the posterior arc and optimal screw insertion angles were defined on pQCT scans. By this, an optimal posterior screw insertion point (OIP) and a preferable screw direction (PSD) through the posterior arch into the lateral mass of C1 were defined. External dimensions (transverse and sagittal diameter) as well as the width of the mid-portion of C1 lateral mass were significantly higher in male specimens. The mean height of the posterior arch at the vertebral artery groove was 4.1 ± 0.8 mm in female and 4.6 ± 0.9 mm in male specimens. The optimal screw insertion point was located 21.6 ± 1.7 mm in female and 23.6 ± 2.3 mm in male lateral from the posterior tubercle of C1 (P < 0.01). The preferable screw direction was a mean medial inclination of 7.9 ± 1.9° in female and 7.3 ± 2.7° in male specimens and a mean rostral direction of 2.4 ± 1.8° in female and 3.1 ± 1.7° in male specimens. In conclusion, the presented study provides information for the use and design of upper cervical spine instrumentation techniques, such as screw placement to C1 via the posterior arch. The characterization of working areas and safe zones (OIP, PSD) might contribute to a minimization of screw malposition in this highly demanding instrumentation technique.

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