Bivector traction for unstable cervical spine fractures: a description of its application and preliminary results

J Spinal Disord. 1997 Oct;10(5):436-40.


The management of acute, displaced odontoid fractures requires the restoration of sagittal alignment and rigid external or internal immobilization to prevent late instability and achieve union. This report introduces a new traction technique for the reduction of posteriorly displaced type 2 odontoid fractures. Seven patients with traumatic injuries to the dens were placed in bivector traction for an awake closed reduction. Sagittal alignment was restored and maintained in all patients with no neurologic deterioration or traction-related complications during an average of 11 days (range, 2-28 days) in traction. The overall sagittal alignment corrected from an initial average of 12.2 mm (range, 5-22 mm) of posterior displacement to an average of 1.1 mm (range, 0-3 mm) at the completion of reduction. Only one patient had residual angulation, which measured 5 degrees. Three patients achieved an osseous union and the remaining four required a posterior C1-C2 fusion for nonunion. Although operative stabilization may be the preferred approach in this patient population and injury pattern, we conclude that bivector traction is a safe and effective technique for the initial management of posteriorly displaced odontoid fractures. In addition, its role can be expanded to the closed reduction of lower cervical spine fractures in patients with fixed flexion deformities secondary to ankylosing spondylitis or disseminated intraosseous segmental hyperostosis.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • External Fixators
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperostosis / complications
  • Hyperostosis / pathology
  • Joint Instability / therapy*
  • Male
  • Odontoid Process / injuries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures / etiology
  • Spinal Fractures / therapy*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / complications
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / pathology
  • Traction / methods*