The anatomical suitability of the C1-2 complex for transarticular screw fixation

J Neurosurg. 1996 Aug;85(2):221-4. doi: 10.3171/jns.1996.85.2.0221.


Posterior transarticular screw fixation of the C1-2 complex has become an accepted method of rigid internal fixation for patients requiring posterior C1-2 fusion. The principal limitation of this procedure is the location of the vertebral artery, because an anomalous position may prohibit screw placement. In this study, a consecutive series of computerized tomography (CT) scans was reviewed, and the suitability of each patient for transarticular screw fixation was evaluated. All of the fine-slice axial C1-2 CT scans and reconstructions performed on a spiral scanner over 2 years were reviewed. A novel screw trajectory reconstruction was designed to visualize the potential path of a transarticular screw in the plane of the reconstruction. Scans were reviewed for bone anatomy and the position of the transverse foramen. Seventeen (18%) of 94 patients had a high-riding transverse foramen on at least one side of the C-2 vertebra that would prohibit the placement of transarticular screws. The left side was involved in nine patients and the right in five. Three patients had bilateral anomalies. The mean age of the group with anomalies (35.9 years, range 10-76) was not significantly different from the overall mean age (35.7 years, range 6-94). An additional five patients (5%) were considered to have anatomy in which screw placement was feasible but risky. On the basis of these data, it is postulated that 18% to 23% of patients may not be suitable candidates for posterior C1-2 transarticular screw fixation on at least one side.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / surgery
  • Bone Screws*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Medical Illustration
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Fusion*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed