A six year review of odontoid fractures: The emerging role of surgical intervention

W. C. Ziai, R. J. Hurlbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Traditionally, odontoid fractures have been treated with different bracing techniques resulting in variable degrees of successful healing. Surgical intervention is becoming more widely practiced as a primary intervention. The purpose of this report was to survey our recent experience in southern Alberta to determine potential outcome differences in management strategies. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 520 patients diagnosed with cervical spine fractures over a six-year period from January 1990, through December 1996. Patients were identified through the medical records database of the two Level 1 trauma facilities, on the basis of ICD-9 diagnostic coding. Results: Ninety-three fractures of the odontoid process were identified, of which 85 were acute and eight were chronic. There were 57 Type II (67%) and 27 Type III (32%) acute odontoid fractures. Of these, 64 were managed conservatively (bracing), whereas 20 were treated surgically. Thirteen patients underwent anterior screw fixation, seven patients had posterior cervical fusion. Eleven patients died in the acute phase, two as a result of their high cervical cord injury and nine from unrelated medical causes. Fifty-six of the remaining 82 patients (68%) were located with a minimum of three months follow-up (range three months to eight years). Satisfactory results were obtained in 76% of all acute patients treated by bracing, but only 50% in those over the age of 65. In the surgically managed group, all patients (100%) went on to develop stable fusions. Conclusions: Our results indicate that while conservative management of odontoid fractures with external bracing results in fracture healing in most cases, surgical fusion may provide superior rates of bony union with acceptable morbidity. This difference in outcome lends itself to formal investigation through a prospective randomized trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-301
Number of pages5
JournalCanadian Journal of Neurological Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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