Posterior stabilization of cervical spine fractures and subluxations with metal plates and screws is commonly used in Europe, but has rarely been employed by neurosurgeons in North America, where stabilization has usually been achieved with wires supplemented by bone grafts or acrylic. The limitations of the more ocmmonly used stabilization techniques include the failure to achieve rotational stability, the necessity for intact laminae, and the requirement for bone grafting. We therefore examined the efficacy of posterior cervical plating in 19 patients who had posttraumatic instability of the cervical spine between C3 and C7 without residual spinal cord compression and 1 patient who had a subluxation as a result of osteomyelitis. Two patients had no neurological deficit, 4 had partial deficits, and 14 had no neurological function below the level of injury. Operation was performed after patients were medically stable and maximal reduction of fractures was achieved (usually within 48 hours). The plates are made of vitallium and contain two or three holes 13 mm apart through which 16-mm screws are placed bilaterally into the center of the articular masses of two or three adjacent vertebrae to stabilize one or two motion segments. Bone grafting is not performed. Patients are mobilized on the day after operation in a Philadelphia collar, which is worn for 3 months. Fourteen patients had stabilization of one motion segment and 6 had stabilization over two motion segments. The mean follow-up is 9.2 months. In a single patient wih ankylosing spondylitis, plate fixation failed when screws pulled out. No patient experienced neurological deterioration as a result of the operative procedure. The remaining 19 patients remain stable at the plated segment(s). The authors conclude that posterior plating is an excellent of cervical spine stabilization and is superior to techniques using wiring.
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