Atlantoaxial instability in Down syndrome: roentgenographic, neurologic, and somatosensory evoked potential studies

J Pediatr. 1987 Apr;110(4):515-21. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(87)80541-3.


To identify patients with Down syndrome and asymptomatic atlantoaxial instability who are at increased risk for developing neurologic symptoms, we studied 27 patients with this skeletal disorder and compared them with an age- and sex-matched group of 27 patients with Down syndrome without atlantoaxial instability. A third group of six patients had symptomatic atlantoaxial instability. The mean atlanto-dens intervals and the mean spinal canal widths among the three groups were significantly different. There were no significant differences in mean composite neurologic scores and somatosensory evoked responses between patients in the asymptomatic group and those in the control group. However, when a subsample of patients with high and low latencies (greater than 1 SD below and above the mean) was formed and comparisons were made with roentgenographic findings, there was a high correspondence between somatosensory evoked potential latencies and atlanto-dens interval measurements. We conclude that no single assessment technique, but a combined approach using roentgenographic, CT scan, neurologic, and neurophysiologic investigations, will provide information of the risk status of patients with Down syndrome and atlantoaxial instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Child
  • Down Syndrome / complications*
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / complications*
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Spinal Canal / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord Compression / complications
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed