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J Craniovertebr Junction Spine. 2018 Jul-Sep;9(3):148-155. doi: 10.4103/jcvjs.JCVJS_72_18.

Management of occipitocervical junction and upper cervical trauma.

Author information

Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Mersin, Mersin, Turkey.
Department of Radiology, University of Mersin, Mersin, Turkey.
Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA.



The treatment modality of occipitocervical junction (OCJ) and upper cervical traumas carries great importance because of unique form of bone, complex ligamentous, and neurovascular structure.

Materials and Methods:

Eighty-eight patients were admitted to Mersin University Department of Neurosurgery between January 2007 and January 2017 for injuries of the OCJ and upper cervical spine and evaluated retrospectively. In the group, there were 60 male, 28 female patients in the mean age of 42.9 (18-87) years. Among those, 2 occipital condyle fractures, 28 C1 fractures (26 isolated and 2 with transverse ligament injury), 9 combined C1/C2 fractures, 6 rotatory C1/C2 dislocations, and 43 C2 fractures (32 odontoid, 5 Hangman's, and 6 miscellaneous fractures) were diagnosed. In addition to clinical cases, ten cadavers were used to study the OCJ in a step-wise manner.


Occipital condyle fractures, isolated C1 fractures, and rotatory C1/C2 dislocations were treated conservatively. Two patients with C1 fracture including transverse ligament injury were operated in one of the methods of C1-C2 fusion which is posterior sublaminar wiring. Five patients having Type II odontoid fracture were treated surgically. One instable Hangman's fracture patient was treated as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.


Cases with isolated C1 fracture with intact transverse ligament should be conservatively treated without surgical approach. Atlas fractures with transverse ligament rupture, odontoid Type II fractures with dislocation >6 mm, and unstable Hangman's fractures required surgical treatment. Vital neurovascular, ligamentous, and accompanying bone structures should be evaluated for diagnosis and treatment modality. In addition, patient's health status, patient's treatment preference, and surgical team experience are the affecting factors for the decision of surgery.


Atlantoaxial stabilization; occipitocervical junction anatomy; occipitocervical stabilization; upper cervical region; upper cervical traumas

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