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J Med Case Rep. 2011 Jul 3;5:275. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-5-275.

Atlantoaxial subluxation as an early manifestation in an adolescent with undifferentiated spondyloarthritis: a case report and review of the literature.

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  • 1Neuro-Spine Program, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Texas Children's Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.



Atlantoaxial instability has been described as a manifestation of ankylosing spondylitis (juvenile and adult onset), reactive arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis; however, it has rarely been reported as an early manifestation of these disorders. We present this case report to increase awareness of the condition in the hope that earlier recognition of this disease may prevent further serious injury.


We report the case of a 17-year-old Hispanic adolescent woman who was initially diagnosed with undifferentiated spondyloarthritis due to peripheral arthritis, enthesitis, a positive human leukocyte antigen B27 result, and inflammatory spinal pain lasting two months. Our patient experienced persistent and worsening occipitocervical pain and signs of myelopathy three months after diagnosis; consequently, we found atlantoaxial instability along with cervical spine bone erosion and pannus formation. She was treated surgically with a C1-2 posterior instrumented fusion and at six weeks post-operatively was started on tumor necrosis factor α blockade. Her occipitocervical symptoms subsided following surgery and initiation of immunomodulation.


Our report serves to emphasize to pediatric and adult general practitioners, pediatricians, internists, family physicians, pediatric and adult rheumatologists and spine surgeons that atlantoaxial subluxation may be an early manifestation of spondyloarthritis, and that the condition is treatable by surgical intervention and immunomodulation.

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