Giuseppe M. V. Barbagallo, Francesco Certo, Massimiliano Visocchi, Stefano Palmucci, Giovanni Sciacca, Vincenzo Albanese

November 2013, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 879 - 888 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-013-3004-1

First Online: 19 September 2013


Retro-odontoid pseudotumor, not related to inflammatory or traumatic conditions, is an uncommon pathology. Atlanto-axial instability has been advocated to explain the pathophysiology of retro-odontoid pseudotumor’s formation and growth. Despite pseudotumor direct removal through transoral or lateral approach represented the main surgical strategy for a long time, in the last decade several authors highlighted the possibility to treat retro-odontoid pseudotumor by occipito-cervical or C1–C2 fixation without removal of the intracanalar tissue. The goal of this study is to analyze the data collected in a series of patients suffering from cervical myelopathy due to non-inflammatory, degenerative retro-odontoid pannus and treated by posterior C1–C2 fixation. The relevant literature is also reviewed.


Five patients, not suffering from inflammatory diseases, were treated between 2009 and 2012. Abnormalities of cranio-cervical junction and/or lower cervical spondylotic degeneration were observed in all patients. No evidence of atlanto-axial instability was demonstrated. Clinical and radiological evaluation included pre- and post-operative Nurick score as well as pre- and post-operative X-rays, CT and MRI. In one case, CT scan highlighted an eggshell calcification of the pannus. All patients underwent either a C1–C2 fixation (C1 lateral mass and C2 isthmus-pedicle screws) or occipito-cervical fixation (2 patients) in cases of C0–C1 fusion.


Follow-up ranges from 22 to 45 months (mean 32) in four patients. One patient died of surgery-unrelated disease. Nurick score changes suggest a clinical improvement in four cases. Neuro-radiological evaluation shows a progressive but incomplete reduction of thickness of retro-odontoid pseudotumor in one patient, and its disappearance in the other three cases. A second-stage transoral or posterior lateral approach was not required.


Although the etiopathogenesis of non-inflammatory, i.e., degenerative, retro-odontoid pseudotumor is still controversial, our series (the second largest on degenerative retro-odontoid pannus in the literature) confirms that a posterior approach may be sufficient and transoral surgery is not required.

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