Retro-Odontoid Pseudotumor without Radiologic Atlantoaxial Instability: A Systematic Review

World Neurosurg. 2019 Jan;121:100-110. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2018.10.011. Epub 2018 Oct 11.


Background: Retro-odontoid pseudotumor (RP) can be caused by several diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis, and is usually associated with the presence of atlantoaxial instability. On the other hand, a different group of patients have been identified in whom RP is observed without radiologic findings of atlantoaxial instability. The pathophysiology, clinical characteristics, and prognosis of this latter group of patients are not well described in the literature.

Methods: A PubMed and Scopus search adhering to PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines was performed to include studies reporting patients with RP without radiologic instability (RPWRI). The data gathered from this review were analyzed to characterize RPWRI.

Results: The search yielded 36 articles with a total of 62 patients. All studies were case reports and small case series. Different characteristics of RPWRI are described, including causes, pathophysiology, and treatment.

Conclusions: The results of this review show that RPWRI has different causes such as hypermobility, deposition of substances, and perhaps disc herniation. Depending on the cause of RPWRI, the pathophysiologic mechanism is different. Treatment should be tailored based on the primary cause of RP and the degree of compression of the cervicomedullary junction. Different degrees of improvement are usually observed after surgical treatment in these patients regardless of the treatment used, but a higher rate of mass regression was observed in those patients in whom the atlantoaxial joint was stabilized.

Keywords: Atlantoaxial instability; Periodontoid mass; Retro-odontoid pseudotumor.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability
  • Odontoid Process
  • Spinal Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Diseases* / etiology