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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007 Mar 1;32(5):E168-74; discussion E175.

Delayed presentation of cervical ligamentous instability without radiologic evidence.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center, Houston, TX 77019, USA.



A case of delayed presentation of unstable cervical ligamentous injury without radiologic evidence is presented.


To report a rare case of delayed presentation of cervical ligamentous injury without radiologic evidence, and to discuss diagnosis, initial management, and techniques of operative stabilization.


The literature is reviewed.


A 48-year-old man who sustained a nondisplaced unilateral C6 pillar fracture with no radiologic evidence of ligamentous injury returned for follow-up with radicular pain and bilateral perched facets at C5-C6.


Closed reduction of the cervical subluxation was performed via cervical traction, and subsequent surgical stabilization was undertaken with anterior cervical discectomy and instrumented arthrodesis of C5-C6 with structural interbody autograft. The patient wore a cervical brace for 6 weeks after surgery, and progressed to a stable fusion with pain resolution and no neurologic sequelae.


This is a rare reported case of delayed presentation of an unstable ligamentous injury in a nondisplaced cervical pillar fracture without initial radiologic evidence of instability. If any reason to suspect ligamentous injury exists, workup with upright cervical lateral radiographs, flexion/extension radiographs, or magnetic resonance imaging should be obtained. Awake, closed reduction with cervical traction followed by surgical stabilization with an anterior discectomy and instrumented arthrodesis with structural autograft achieved stable fixation.

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