Acute axis fractures: Analysis of management and outcome in 340 consecutive cases

Academic Article


  • Study Design. Retrospective review of acute axis fractures treated at a tertiary referral center. Objective. To determine the optimal treatment of axis fractures based on 340 cases from a single institution. Summary of Background Data. Axis fractures account for almost 20% of acute cervical spine fractures. However, their management and the clinical criteria predictive of nonoperative failure remain unclear. Methods. Admission imaging studies and clinical variables were obtained for 340 consecutive axis fracture patients. Fractures were classified as odontoid Type I, II, or III with dens displacement on admission roentgenograms; hangman's fractures of Francis grade and Effendi type; and miscellaneous fractures. Treatment methods were documented, and outcomes were based on dynamic lateral roentgenograms, clinical examination, or telephone interviews at last follow- up. Results. Follow-up data were available in 92% of cases. Type II odontoid fractures comprised 35% of all axis fractures, were the most difficult to treat, and had the highest nonunion rate (28.4%). Odontoid displacement of 6 mm or more was associated with Type II nonunion (chi-square = 33.74, P < 0.0001). Patients underwent surgical fusion if fracture alignment could not be maintained by an external orthosis, or if they had odontoid fractures with transverse ligament disruption, Type II odontoid fractures with dens displacement of at least 6 mm, or hangman's fractures of severe Francis grade or Effendi type. Conclusions. Type II odontoid fractures have the highest nonunion rate and were associated with dens displacement of 6 mm or greater. Early surgical fusion is recommended for acute fracture instability despite external immobilization, transverse ligament disruption, Type II odontoid fractures with dens displacement of at least 6 mm on a admission, or severe Francis grade or Effendi-type hangman's fractures. Otherwise, nonoperative management is sufficient.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Spine  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Greene KA; Dickman CA; Marciano FF; Drabier JB; Hadley MN; Sonntag VKH
  • Start Page

  • 1843
  • End Page

  • 1852
  • Volume

  • 22
  • Issue

  • 16