Early complications of surgical versus conservative treatment of isolated type II odontoid fractures in octogenarians: a retrospective cohort study

J Spinal Disord Tech. 2008 Dec;21(8):535-9. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0b013e318163570b.


Study design: A retrospective cohort study of operative versus nonoperative treatment of isolated type II odontoid fractures in patients aged 80 years and more without neurologic deficit admitted to a level 1 spinal cord injury center between June 1985 and July 2006.

Objective: To assess the presentation and acute complications of operatively and nonoperatively managed type II odontoid fractures in the octogenarian population.

Summary of background data: Type II odontoid fractures are the most common cervical spine fracture in the elderly. Studies suggest acute in-hospital complication rates in type II odontoid fractures in the elderly exceed 50%. Few studies have examined the acute in-hospital outcomes of isolated type II odontoid fractures in the octogenarian population.

Methods: The medical records of 223 consecutive C2 fractures from June 1985 to July 2006 over the age of 80 years were reviewed retrospectively. Patients with associated cervical spine fractures were excluded. Eighty neurologically intact patients over age 80 were identified with isolated acute type II odontoid fractures. The charts were reviewed and mechanism of injury, comorbidities, date of injury, date of admission, date of discharge, radiology reports, discharge disposition, associated injuries, fracture management, type of surgical fixation (if any), and documented complications were abstracted.

Results: Thirty-two patients received operative treatment (10 anterior and 22 posterior) and 40 patients received nonsurgical treatment. Eight patients were excluded because the medical record could not be located. The mean age was 85.5+/-3.5 years in the surgical and 87.3+/-4.7 years in the nonsurgical group (P>0.05); mean length of acute hospital stay was 11.2+/-8.5 days in the nonsurgical and 22.8+/-28.3 days in the surgical group (P<0.05); mean comorbidity score was 2.3+/-1.2 in the nonsurgical and 2.0+/-1.0 in the surgical group (P>0.5); mean fracture displacement was 4.1+/-3.5 mm in the nonsurgical and 3.9+/-3.4 mm in the surgical group (P>0.5). Acute in-hospital mortality rate was 15% in the nonsurgical group and 12.5% in the surgical group (P>0.05). The percentage of patients experiencing at least one significant complication was higher in the operative group than the nonoperative group (62% vs. 35%, respectively, P<0.05).

Conclusions: Type II odontoid fractures in the octogenarian population are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality, irrespective of management method. Prospective studies are needed to better elucidate management strategies for this difficult clinical problem.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Odontoid Process / injuries*
  • Odontoid Process / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Fractures / therapy*
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology