M. Schomacher, F. Jiang, M. Alrjoub, C. D. Witiw, P. Diamandis, M. G. Fehlings

December 2020, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 162 - 170 Case Report Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06405-8

First Online: 15 April 2020


The treatment of a retro-odontoid pseudotumor mass associated with severe spinal cord compression is challenging due to the complex regional anatomy. Here, we present an attractive treatment option involving a single-stage posterior transdural microsurgical resection followed by instrumented cervical reconstruction.


We describe three patients presenting with clinical signs of cervical myelopathy and an imaging finding of mucoid and fibrous soft or semi-soft retro-odontoid pseudotumor mass with significant spinal cord compression at the C1/C2 level. Given the severity of the symptoms, surgical decompression was planned and fusion was necessitated by the severe degenerative osteoarthritis seen at the C1/C2 level with signs of instability. Using a standard posterior approach to the spine, a suboccipital decompression by craniectomy and laminectomy of C1, C2 and C3 was performed. The masses were visualized and confirmed with ultrasound imaging, and intraoperative neurosurgical monitoring was applied. The dura was then opened from the level of C0–C2. Exiting C2–C3 nerve roots were identified and protected throughout the procedure, and the dentate ligament was cut to facilitate access. Incision of the anterior dura provided easy access to the lesion for resection without any spinal cord retraction. Multiple intraoperative samples were sent to pathology for tissue diagnosis. The dura was closed with sutures and an overlay of fibrin sealant with collagen matrix sponge. The fusion procedures were performed using a standard occipital cervical plate and screws technique with contoured titanium rods.


The posterior cervical transdural approach is a safe alternative procedure for mucoid and fibrous soft or semi-soft retro-odontoid pseudotumor mass removal. Preoperative CT scan can evaluate tissue characteristics and distinguish between a soft or ossified mass in front of the spinal cord. Local anatomical conditions facilitate less bleeding and adhesions, together with less spinal cord traction, in the intradural space. Cranio-cervical and suboccipital stabilization can be easily and safely performed with this exposure.

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