The three main techniques are:
All techniques can be combined with spondylodesis (fusion).
The choice between these techniques will mainly depend on the following factors:
The trans articular screw is not indicated in patients with high riding vertebral artery.
Adequate screw purchase may not be achievable due to the fracture morphology for either of the screws.
Typically, if trans articular screws cannot be used, the Goel-Harms technique will be possible, and vice versa.
Trans-articular screws are not indicated if the fracture cannot be reduced anatomically.
With associated C1-C2 fractures, eg dislocated C1 burst fractures, the Goel-Harms technique may not be indicated.
C1-C3 Stabilization is indicated if the C2-C3 disk is damaged.
The choice of procedure will also depend on the surgeons familiarities with the techniques.
In young patients the Goel-Harms technique is favorable as the implants can be removed after fracture healing. The Magerl procedure on the other hand will damage the C1-C2 joint.
The Magerl procedure may prove difficult or impossible in patients with hyper kyphosis.
Prior to the surgical access the fracture should be reduced anatomically.
Anatomical reduction is essential for the success of the trans articular C1-C2 screw fixation. If this is not possible, the Goel-Harms technique should be used.
Reduction can be performed
Prior to draping the patient for insertion of trans articular screws the location of the skin incision needs to be determined. This is done by placing a long K-wire along the side of the neck in the intended direction of the screw and
viewing on the image intensifier.
One of the following techniques is chosen:
This procedure is performed through a posterior approach with the patient placed in the prone position.
C1 can be fixed using either lateral mass screws that start just caudal to the posterior arch or that start on top of the posterior arch and then capture the lateral mass. The latter can only be used if the posterior arch is thick enough to allow for the screw.
C2 can be fixed using either of the three techniques:
Be aware that some posterior arches have a ponticulus posticus that appears to be a thick posterior arch, but in fact is a small bridge of bone that overlies the vertebral artery.
Since there are only two screws on each side, a straight rod is placed to link the two and set screws are placed and tightened. Keep the rods as short as possible.
Fusion is typically indicated in:
Fashion the bone graft as illustrated.
Place a wire under the left rod over the graft and under the right rod and cinch it in place to push the graft onto the decorticated C1 posterior arch and C2 lamina.
Add additional cancellous autograft strips to fill the voids between the lamina of C2 and the structural autograft.
Alternatively (or additionally) the facet joints of C1-C2 can be opened, decorticated and fused.
Cancellous allograft placed dorsally over the lamina does not work in the vast majority of cases and should be avoided. One can place cancellous allograft intra-articulary after decorticating.
To decorticate the joint, reflect the C2 nerve cranially.
Burr into the joint or use a curette to scrape the articular cartilage. Be aware that the vertebral artery can in some cases be just below the articular surface of C2. This can be verified by CT scan.
The lamina and facets are decorticated and bone graft placed.
Patients are made to sit up in the bed on the evening following the operation.
A collar is commonly used following surgical stabilization to moderate patient activity.
The purpose of a collar is to prevent ranges of motion outside of limits deemed unfavorable for fracture healing. Collar is optional.
Patients with intact neurological status are made to stand and walk on the first day after surgery. Patients can be discharged when medically stable or sent to a rehabilitation center if further care is necessary. This depends on the comfort levels and presence of other associated injuries.
Patients are generally followed with periodical x-rays at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.