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Acta Ortop Mex. 2007 Jul-Aug;21(4):204-11.

[Surgical treatment of craniocervical instability. Review paper].

[Article in Spanish]

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Servicio Cirugia de Columna Vertebral, Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación/Ortopedia.


The concept of spinal instability is still controversial. Anatomical, biomechanical, clinical and radiographic variants are involved and make the definition complicated. There are solid diagnostic bases in cases of fractures and degenerative disorders; however, pure spinal instability is still under study. The latter may be defined as increased mobility that goes beyond the physiological limits of one vertebra over another in at least one of the three spinal planes of motion. In the case of the craniocervical region, its understanding becomes even more challenging, since its anatomy and physiology are more complex and it is more mobile. Surgical treatment is possible with either an anterior or a posterior approach. Best results are obtained with occipitocervical or atlantoaxial stabilization through a posterior approach, since the anterior one has its limitations. For example, a transoral approach with a bone graft provides compression strength but does not enable immediate appropriate fixation and involves the risk of infection. The choice of the surgical approach must consider the patient's medical status, the specific spine levels involved, the extent of neurological compromise, the X-ray abnormalities and the individual pathology. The goals of surgery are achieved through an appropriate anatomical alignment, assuring the protection of the neural elements and achieving proper spine stabilization with as much preservation of the mobile vertebral segments as possible.

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