A review of 35 patients > 60 years of age with odontoid fractures showed that a type II injury (Anderson and D'Alonso) was the most common fracture pattern (82% of cases). On the basis of mechanism of injury and sex incidence, we deduced that osteopenia is a contributory factor in the occurrence of odontoid fractures. A fall in a domestic setting was the cause in 53%. The peg was posteriorly displaced in 88% of type II fractures, and primary union occurred in 23%. The incidence of concomitant spinal cord injury with type II fractures was higher in older patients than it was in those < 60 years of age. The outcome for these patients was largely determined by their neurological status at presentation. Myelopathy as a late complication of nonunion was not observed in nine patients with an average follow-up of 21 months. The data suggest that vigorous attempts to secure both primary union and a sound arthrodesis for non-union are questionable in the elderly except in unusual circumstances.