Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011 May 1;36(10):E678-81. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181faa6de.

Symptomatic vertebral artery compression by the rod of a C1-C2 posterior fusion construct: case report and review of the literature.

Author information

  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. sterterov@mednet.ucla.edu



Case report.


To report a rare complication of atlantoaxial fusion.


Vertebral artery injury is a serious complication of screw-based atlantoaxial fusion. To our knowledge, injury to the vertebral artery has only been described as a result of screw placement. We describe the first case of atlantoaxial fixation complicated by symptomatic and reversible external compression of the vertebral artery by the rod in a Harms construct.


Medical records and imaging reports were reviewed.


A neurologically intact 84-year-old woman presented after a ground-level fall. Imaging revealed a nondisplaced type II odontoid fracture associated with a C1 ring fracture. She underwent a minimally invasive Harms atlantoaxial fusion. After surgery, she developed fluctuating level of consciousness in the setting of an otherwise normal neurologic and metabolic workup. A computed tomographic angiogram was obtained and showed good screw placement except for compression of the right vertebral artery from the right transfixing rod causing 75% luminal narrowing. She underwent a revision with rod shortening, and after surgery, improved neurologically, without any further episodes of altered mental status.


In atlantoaxial fusion, the incidence of vertebral artery compression by the rod component of fusion construct may be underreported because it is difficult to detect with noncontrast computed tomography without computed tomographic angiography, which is not routinely obtained unless there is a high suspicion for vascular injury. We recommend inserting the rods with the cut (sharp) end pointing inferiorly, to avoid lacerating the vertebral artery. A vertebral artery compression from the rod in the absence of screw violation of the foramen transversarium should be considered in a patient with altered mental status after atlantoaxial fusion.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk