Anterior surgery in trauma of the cervical spine.

M. Laus, F. A. Zappoli, C. Alfonso, M. C. Malaguti, A. Giunti

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The study reports a series of 37 traumatic lesions of the cervical spine treated surgically by anterior approach. The series includes two IInd type fractures of the odontoid, treated by direct screwing, 32 recent fractures or fracture-dislocations of the lower cervical spine treated by decompression and anterior arthrodesis with a plate, 3 inveterate dislocations treated by anterior-posterior osteotomy in 2 cases, and decompression-arthrodesis in the third. One amyelic fracture of the odontoid healed in 4 months, the other patient, with Frankel C spinal cord lesion improved to D, but died 4 months later as a result of bronchial pneumonia ab ingestis. In all of the recent lower cervical lesions fusion was obtained in 3-12 months (mean 4.5 months). Eight incomplete spinal cord lesions improved by 2 Frankel classes in 3 cases and by 1 in 5. Six nerve root lesions healed with complete recovery. Three cases with no neurologic deficit remained unchanged as did 15 complete spinal cord lesions. In the 3 inveterate cases we obtained healing of a slow-developing myelopathy (Frankel D) after osteotomy, no improvement after osteotomy in the second case (Frankel B). In the case submitted to decompression and anterior fusion we obtained recovery from Frankel B to E in three months, but the patient then died as a result of pulmonary complications. Direct screwing of the odontoid allows us to obtain healing of the type II fractures without blocking C1-C2 movement with a posterior fusion. Anterior surgery in traumas of the lower cervical spine allows for anatomical decompression of the spinal cord and bone reconstruction with good results, avoiding the risk of neurologic progression caused by dragging of the disc material in the spinal canal, that may take place at the time of non-surgical reduction or by posterior approach of the dislocations. In our series complications included 2 infections, 1 that healed without sequelae and the other with kyphosis, and a fistula of the hypopharynx caused by fibrobronchoscopy 1 year after osteosynthesis, that healed after primary repair. For this latter complication anterior surgery can, at most, be considered a contributing cause, because of the deep scar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-104
Number of pages8
JournalLa Chirurgia degli organi di movimento
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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