Yue-Qi Du, Yi-Heng Yin, Teng Li, Guang-Yu Qiao, Xin-Guang Yu


June 2021, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 1585 - 1595 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06780-w

First Online: 11 March 2021

Purpose

To introduce a novel surgical protocol for safe and accurate placement of C1 lateral mass screws in patients with atlas assimilation, basilar invagination and atlantoaxial instability, and to categorize the screw accuracy and perioperative complications regarding this technique in a large case series.

Methods

Between January 2015 and January 2020, patients who had atlas assimilation, basilar invagination and atlantoaxial instability, and underwent atlantoaxial fixation using C1 lateral mass screws were reviewed. C1 lateral mass screws were placed with a novel surgical protocol following a series key steps, including posterior para-odontoid ligament release, panoramic exposure of the invaginated lateral mass, and diligent protection of the abnormal VA. Screw accuracy and related complications were specifically evaluated.

Results

A total of 434 C1 lateral mass screws were placed. Fifteen screws (3.5%) were classified as unacceptable, 54 screws (12.4%) were classified as acceptable, and 365 screws (84.1%) were classified as ideal. Overall, 96.5% of screws were deemed safe. There were no cases of vascular injury or permanent neurological defects. One patient with an unacceptable screw presented with hypoglossal nerve paralysis and recovered after an immediate revision surgery. Thirty-seven patients complained about occipital neuralgia and were successfully managed with medication.

Conclusion

Placement of C1 lateral mass screws in patients with atlas assimilation, basilar invagination and atlantoaxial instability following this surgical protocol is safe and accurate. Thorough para-odontoid ligamental release, wide exposure of the invaginated lateral mass, and diligent protection of the vertebral artery are critical to maximize the chances of successful screw placement.


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