Atlantoaxial fixation using C1 posterior arch screws: feasibility study, morphometric data, and biomechanical analysis

Gilbert Cadena, Huy T. Duong, Jonathan J. Liu, Kee D Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVEC1-2 is a highly mobile complex that presents unique surgical challenges to achieving biomechanical rigidity and fusion. Posterior wiring methods have been largely replaced with segmental constructs using the C1 lateral mass, C1 pedicle, C2 pars, and C2 pedicle. Modifications to reduce surgical morbidity led to the development of C2 laminar screws. The C1 posterior arch has been utilized mostly as a salvage technique, but recent data indicate that this method provides significant rigidity in flexion-extension and axial rotation. The authors performed biomechanical testing of a C1 posterior arch screw (PAS)/C2 pars screw construct, collected morphometric data from a population of 150 CT scans, and performed a feasibility study of a freehand C1 PAS technique in 45 cadaveric specimens.METHODSCervical spine CT scans from 150 patients were analyzed to determine the average C1 posterior tubercle thickness and size of C1 posterior arches. Eight cadavers were used to compare biomechanical stability of intact specimens, C1 lateral mass/C2 pars screw, and C1 PAS/C2 pars screw constructs. Paired comparisons were made using repeated-measures ANOVA and Holm-Sidak tests. Forty-five cadaveric specimens were used to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of the C1 PAS freehand technique.RESULTSMorphometric data showed the average craniocaudal thickness of the C1 posterior tubercle was 12.3 ± 1.94 mm. Eight percent (12/150) of cases showed thin posterior tubercles or midline defects. Average posterior arch thickness was 6.1 ± 1.1 mm and right and left average posterior arch length was 28.7 mm ± 2.53 mm and 28.9 ± 2.29 mm, respectively. Biomechanical testing demonstrated C1 lateral mass/C2 pars and C1 PAS/C2 pars constructs significantly reduced motion in flexion-extension and axial rotation compared with intact specimens (p < 0.05). The C1 lateral mass/C2 pars screw construct provided significant rigidity in lateral bending (p < 0.05). There was no statistically significant difference between the two constructs in flexion-extension, lateral bending, or axial rotation. Of the C1 posterior arches, 91.3% were successfully cannulated using a freehand technique with a low incidence of cortical breach (4.4%).CONCLUSIONSThis biomechanical analysis indicates equivalent stability of the C1 PAS/C2 pars screw construct compared with a traditional C1 lateral mass/C2 pars screw construct. Both provide significant rigidity in flexion-extension and axial rotation. Feasibility testing in 45 cadaveric specimens indicates a high degree of accuracy with low incidence of cortical breach. These findings are supported by a separate radiographic morphometric analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-322
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurosurgery. Spine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 14 2018


  • atlantoaxial fixation
  • atlantoaxial instability
  • biomechanical analysis
  • C1 posterior arch screw
  • C1 screw
  • C1–2 instrumentation
  • cervical
  • PAS = posterior arch screw
  • ROM = range of motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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