Bilateral C1-2 transarticular screw fixation (TAF) with interspinous wiring has been the best treatment for atlantoaxial instability (AAI). However, several factors may disturb satisfactory placement of bilateral screws. This study evaluates the usefulness of unilateral TAF when bilateral TAF is not available.
Between January 2003 and December 2007, TAF was performed in 54 patients with AAI. Preoperative studies including cervical x-ray, three dimensional computed tomogram, CT angiogram, and magnetic resonance image were checked. The atlanto-dental interval (ADI) was measured in preoperative period, immediate postoperatively, and postoperative 1, 3 and 6 months.
Unilateral TAF was performed in 27 patients (50%). The causes of unilateral TAF were anomalous course of vertebral artery in 20 patients (74%), severe degenerative arthritis in 3 (11%), fracture of C1 in 2, hemangioblastoma in one, and screw malposition in one. The mean ADI in unilateral group was measured as 2.63 mm in immediate postoperatively, 2.61 mm in 1 month, 2.64 mm in 3 months and 2.61 mm in 6 months postoperatively. The mean ADI of bilateral group was also measured as following; 2.76 mm in immediate postoperative, 2.71 mm in 1 month, 2.73 mm in 3 months, 2.73 mm in 6 months postoperatively. Comparison of ADI measurement showed no significant difference in both groups, and moreover fusion rate was 100% in bilateral and 96.3% in unilateral group (p=0.317).
Even though bilateral TAF is best option for AAI in biomechanical perspectives, unilateral screw fixation also can be a useful alternative in otherwise dangerous or infeasible cases through bilateral screw placement.