The objective of this study is to investigate the safety, surgical efficacy, and advantages of a polyaxial screw-rod system for posterior occipitocervicothoracic arthrodesis.
Charts and radiographs of 32 patients who underwent posterior cervical fixation between October 2004 and February 2006 were retrospectively reviewed. Posterior cervical polyaxial screw-rod fixation was applied on the cervical spine and/or upper thoracic spine. The surgical indication was fracture or dislocation in 18, C1-2 ligamentous injury with trauma in 5, atlantoaxial instability by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in 4, cervical spondylosis with myelopathy in 4, and spinal metastatic tumor in 1. The patients were followed up and evaluated based on their clinical status and radiographs at 1, 3, 6 months and 1 year after surgery.
A total of 189 screws were implanted in 32 patients. Fixation was carried out over an average of 3.3 spinal segment (range, 2 to 7). The mean follow-up interval was 20.2 months. This system allowed for screw placement in the occiput, C1 lateral mass, C2 pars, C3-7 lateral masses, as well as the lower cervical and upper thoracic pedicles. Satisfactory bony fusion and reduction were achieved and confirmed in postoperative flexion-extension lateral radiographs and computed tomography (CT) scans in all cases. Revision surgery was required in two cases due to deep wound infection. One case needed a skin graft due to necrotic change. There was one case of kyphotic change due to adjacent segmental degeneration. There were no other complications, such as cord or vertebral artery injury, cerebrospinal fluid leak, screw malposition or back-out, or implant failure, and there were no cases of postoperative radiculopathy due to foraminal stenosis.
Posterior cervical stabilization with a polyaxial screw-rod system is a safe and reliable technique that appears to offer several advantages over existing methods. Further biomechanical testings and clinical experiences are needed in order to determine the true benefits of this procedure.