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J Neurosurg. 1991 Sep;75(3):478-82.

Stabilization of traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation. Case report.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Foothills Hospital, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation is most often fatal. Consequently, there are only scattered case reports of patients surviving this injury, and treatment modalities are anecdotal and varied. The case of an 18-year-old woman who suffered an anterior atlanto-occipital dislocation as the result of a motor-vehicle accident is presented. Rigid posterior fixation and complete reduction of the dislocation were achieved using an anatomically contoured steel loop secured to the occiput and cervical vertebrae. The addition of cancellous bone to the graft afforded long-term stability. This operative treatment provided anatomical realignment of the dislocation and allowed early mobilization of the patient with the use of aggressive rehabilitation. Previously reported cases of patients surviving anterior atlanto-occipital dislocation are reviewed. The use of cervical traction, halo bracing, and operative stabilization is discussed.

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