Study Design. The study is a retrospective review of 58 patients who underwent occipitocervical fusion between 1997 and 2001.
Objectives: Our objective is to study the clinical results after occipitocervical fixation with long-term follow-up and assess factors contributing to clinical success.
Methods: Data from patient charts, operative notes, physician office notes, and imaging studies were incorporated in the study. Myelopathy was assessed using a Nurick scale for preoperative and postoperative evaluation. Fusion was assessed using cervical plane films with flexion and extension views.
Results: Mean follow-up was 36 months, with all patients having a greater than 1-year follow-up. The most common pathology was congenital cranial settling (41%) followed by trauma (22%) and rheumatoid arthritis (17%). Myelopathy was the most common presentation (62%) followed by pain (28%). A successful fusion occurred in 48 out of 51 patients (94%). Symptoms improved in 86% of patients, whereas 35% improved 1 Nurick grade. Complications occurred in 30% of patients. The cervical wound infection rate was 5%. The rate of adjacent level degeneration was 7%. The mortality rate was 1.7%.
Conclusions: Occipitocervical instrumentation allows for very high fusion rates without the need for halo vest immobilization. All patients with successful fixation have pain resolution. Myelopathy improves in most patients, whereas one-third of patients demonstrate dramatic improvement.