Atlantoaxial Stabilization in Rheumatoid Arthritis
Atlantoaxial subluxation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is common. Operative stabilization is clearly indicated when signs and symptoms of spinal cord compression occur. However, many recommend early operative fusion before evidence of appreciable neural compression occurs because 1) the myelopathy in these patients may be irreversible; 2) the overall prognosis is poor once symptoms of cord compression are present; and 3) the risk of sudden death associated with atlantoaxial subluxation is increased even in asymptomatic patients. The authors believe that rheumatoid arthritis patients in relatively good health without advanced multisystem disease and less than 65 years of age should be considered for operative stabilization if mobile atlantoaxial subluxation is greater than 6 mm. Seventeen patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis and atlantoaxial subluxation treated with a posterior arthrodesis are presented. A new method of fusion, devised by the senior author (V.K.H.S.), was utilized in all cases. Indications for operative therapy in these patients included evidence of spinal cord compression in 11 patients (65%) and mobile atlantoaxial subluxation greater than 6 mm but no signs or symptoms of cord compression in six patients (35%). Thirteen patients developed a stable osseous fusion, two patients a well-aligned fibrous union, one patient a malaligned fibrous union, and one patient died prior to evaluation of fusion stability. The details of the operative technique and management strategies are presented. Several technical advantages of this method of fusion make this approach particularly useful in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Because of multisystem involvement of this disease, a high rate of osseous fusion is often difficult to achieve.
Journal of Neurosurgery
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Papadopoulos, Stephen M.; Dickman, C. A.; and Sonntag, Volker K.H., "Atlantoaxial Stabilization in Rheumatoid Arthritis" (1991). Neurosurgery. 48.