Background: Rotatory atlantoaxial subluxation (RAS) is a rare condition that is often misdiagnosed and therefore incorrectly managed. We describe our experience and propose an algorithm for treating neglected RAS nonoperatively.
Methods: All consecutive children with neglected (>6 wk) RAS were treated in our department between 2005 and 2010 by cervical traction using a Gleason traction device and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants. When reduction was not achieved, the Gleason device was replaced by a halo device without manipulative reduction, and weight was added as necessary until reduction was successful. Fixation of reduction was either by a sternooccipital mandibular immobilizer or a halo vest for 3 to 4 months.
Results: All 5 children (4 boys and 1 girl, aged 4 to 11 y) were successfully treated for neglected RAS. The mean duration from symptom onset (eg, limited neck range of motion, discomfort) to treatment initiation was 11.6 weeks (range, 6 to 16 wk). Closed reduction was achieved by a Gleason or a noninvasive halo device within 1 to 2 weeks in 4 cases. The fifth case was reduced after 5 weeks of traction using a halo with a 5 kg weight. All children had symmetrical full range of motion, normal neurological examination, and were fully engaged in educational and sports activities without recurrent dislocations at final follow-up (mean, 30 mo; range, 18 to 49 mo).
Conclusions: Conservative treatment by gradual and prolonged traction without manipulative reduction in neglected RAS might be a successful method. Reduction can often be achieved within 2 weeks of treatment onset.
Level of evidence: Level IV (retrospective case series).