Harish S. Hosalkar, MD1, Eric L. Cain, MD1, David Horn, MD1, Kingsley R. Chin, MD2, John P. Dormans, MD1 and Denis S. Drummond, MD1
1 Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 34th and Civic Center Boulevard, Wood Building, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail address for D.S. Drummond: firstname.lastname@example.org 2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 2 Silverstein, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Investigation performed at the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The authors did not receive grants or outside funding in support of their research or preparation of this manuscript. They did not receive payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated.
Background: Traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation in children and adolescents is a rare and often fatal injury. Although historically most reported cases have been fatal, the advent of modern prehospital care has led to an increase in survival following this injury. As a consequence, some patients may achieve or maintain satisfactory neurologic function following early intervention, stabilization, and definitive management. We analyzed the data on children and adolescents in whom traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation had been treated with modern resuscitation techniques at our institution. Methods: Atlanto-occipital dislocation is defined as disruption of the ligaments and other supporting soft tissues as indicated by displacement in either a transverse or vertical direction. With use of the Trauma Registry database at our institution, we identified sixteen such injuries that had occurred between 1986 and 2003. The hospital charts, clinic notes, and radiographs were reviewed. A careful neurological evaluation was performed for all of the survivors at the time of the latest follow-up.
Results: The mean age of the sixteen patients at the time of the injury was 7.6 years. The mechanisms of injury were diverse. The mean Glasgow Coma Scale score was 7.4 points. Eleven of the sixteen patients underwent intubation in the field, two were intubated in the emergency department, and three were not intubated. Eight of the sixteen patients were declared dead on arrival in the emergency department. The eight surviving patients initially were immobilized with either a halo vest or another orthosis. All patients except one received intravenous steroids in the emergency department. Three of the patients who survived the initial injury subsequently died while undergoing neurosurgical procedures for the treatment of extensive intracranial injuries. Four of the remaining five survivors underwent occiput-C2 fusion, and one was managed with a Minerva cast. At the time of the final follow-up, at a mean of 4.2 years after the injury, one patient was neurologically normal, three had mild spastic hemiparesis and were very functional, and one had spastic quadriplegia and was ventilator-dependent.
Conclusions: Prompt recognition and treatment of traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation in children and adolescents can result in improved survival. Early diagnosis, prompt intubation, early and adequate immobilization of the head and neck, and the use of intravenous steroids appear to facilitate survival. We recommend arthrodesis from the occiput to C2 (or the nearest adjacent intact and stable vertebra caudad to C2) for all children who survive a traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation, particularly those with an incomplete spinal cord injury.
The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American). 2005;87:2480-2488.