Conservative Management of Type II Odontoid Fractures in Older People: A Retrospective Observational Comparison of Osseous Union Versus Nonunion

Neurosurgery. 2020 Jun 22;nwaa256. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyaa256. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Type II odontoid fractures are a common cervical fracture in older people. Lower osseous-union rates are reported in those treated conservatively compared to surgically; however, the clinical relevance of a nonunion is unknown.

Objective: To compare pain, disability, and quality of life in older people following conservative management of type II odontoid fractures demonstrating osseous-union and nonunion.

Methods: Electronic records were searched from 2008 to 2018 for adults ≥65 yr with type II odontoid fracture, managed in a semi-rigid collar. Clinical and demographic data were retrieved from electronic patient notes. Surviving patients were invited to complete questionnaires to assess pain, disability, and quality of life. Ethical approval was granted.

Results: A total of 125 patients were identified: 36 (29%) demonstrated osseous-union, 89 (71%) had nonunion, of which 33 (40%) had radiological instability. Mean age at fracture was 84 yr (osseous-union 83 yr; nonunion 84 yr). A total of 53 had deceased (41 nonunion). Median length of survival was 77 mo for osseous-union vs 50 mo for nonunion; P = .02. No patient developed myelopathy during the follow-up period. Questionnaire response rate was 39 (58%). There were no statistically significant differences between the groups in terms of pain, disability, or quality of life (P > .05). Both groups reported mild disability and pain but low quality of life.

Conclusion: Management with a semi-rigid collar in older people with type II odontoid fracture is associated with low levels of pain and disability without statistically significant differences between those demonstrating osseous-union or stable or unstable nonunions. Conservative management appears to be a safe treatment for older people with type II fractures.

Keywords: Aged; Disability; Follow-up studies; Fractures, Bone; Neck pain; Odontoid process; Quality of life.