Heiko Koller, Sebastian Hartmann, Gmeiner Raphael, Werner Schmölz, Christoph Orban, Claudius Thome

June 2021, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 1596 - 1606 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06822-3

First Online: 23 April 2021


Stabilization of C1-2 using a Harms–Goel construct with 3.5 mm titanium (Ti) rods has been established as a standard of reference (SOR). A reduction in craniocervical deformities can indicate increased construct stiffness at C1-2. A reduction in C1-2 can result in C1-2 joint gapping. Therefore, the authors sought to study the biomechanical consequences of C1-2 gapping on construct stiffness using different instrumentations, including a novel 6-screw/3-rod (6S3R) construct, to compare the results to the SOR. We hypothesized that different instrument pattern will reveal significant differences in reduction in ROM among constructs tested.


The range of motion (ROM) of instrumented C1-2 polyamide models was analyzed in a six-degree-of-freedom spine tester. The models were loaded with pure moments (2.0 Nm) in axial rotation (AR), flexion extension (FE), and lateral bending (LB). Comparisons of C1-2 construct stiffness among the constructs included variations in rod diameter (3.5 mm vs. 4.0 mm), rod material (Ti. vs. CoCr) and a cross-link (CLX). Construct stiffness was tested with C1-2 facets in contact (Contact Group) and in a 2 mm distracted position (Gapping Group). The ROM (°) was recorded and reported as a percentage of ROM (%ROM) normalized to the SOR. A difference > 30% between the SOR and the %ROM among the constructs was defined as significant.


Among all constructs, an increase in construct stiffness up to 50% was achieved with the addition of CLX, particularly with a 6S3R construct. These differences showed the greatest effect for the CLX in AR testing and for the 6S3R construct in FE and AR testing. Among all constructs, C1-2 gapping resulted in a significant loss of construct stiffness. A protective effect was shown for the CLX, particularly using a 6S3R construct in AR and FE testing. The selection of rod diameter (3.5 mm vs. 4.0 mm) and rod material (Ti vs. CoCr) did show a constant trend but did not yield significance.


This study is the first to show the loss of construct stiffness at C1-2 with gapping and increased restoration of stability using CLX and 6S3R constructs. In the correction of a craniocervical deformity, nuances in the surgical technique and advanced instrumentation may positively impact construct stability.

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