Calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystal deposition in and around the atlantoaxial joint: association with type 2 odontoid fractures in nine patients

Radiology. 2000 Jul;216(1):213-9. doi: 10.1148/radiology.216.1.r00jl36213.


Purpose: To investigate the histopathologic anatomy of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystal deposition in and around the atlantoaxial joint and the association between CPPD crystal deposition and subchondral cysts, erosions, and fracture involving the odontoid process of the axis.

Materials and methods: One adult cadaver demonstrating calcification in the retro-odontoid area at computed tomography (CT) was selected for further radiography, CT, and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging at the C1-2 level. Anatomic sectioning and histologic evaluations were performed in the specimen. For clinical study, radiographs (n = 5), CT scans (n = 8), and MR images (n = 6) in nine patients (mean age, 74.4 years) with odontoid process fractures and CPPD crystal deposits in and around the atlantoaxial joint were reviewed.

Results: In the cadaveric specimen, radiography and CT demonstrated calcifications in the transverse ligament; histologic evaluation confirmed that these calcifications were CPPD crystal deposits. In all nine patients, radiography (n = 5) and CT (n = 8) also showed calcification in areas adjacent to the odontoid process, which included the transverse ligament. T1- and T2-weighted MR imaging showed a retro-odontoid mass of low signal intensity that compressed the cervical cord in six patients. CT, MR imaging, or both demonstrated subchondral cysts, osseous erosions, or a type 2 odontoid fracture in all patients.

Conclusion: CPPD crystal deposition disease involving the C1-C2 articulation can be a clinically important entity that may place affected patients at increased risk of pathologic fracture of the odontoid process.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / metabolism
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / pathology
  • Calcium Pyrophosphate / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odontoid Process / diagnostic imaging*
  • Odontoid Process / injuries*
  • Odontoid Process / metabolism
  • Odontoid Process / pathology
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Fractures / metabolism
  • Spinal Fractures / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Calcium Pyrophosphate