Minimum 5-year Follow-up Results for Occipitocervical Fusion Using the Screw-Rod System in Craniocervical Instability

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Study Design:

Retrospective clinical study.


To evaluate the clinical outcome of patients who had undergone occipitocervical (OC) fusion using pedicle screws and rods over a minimum 5-year follow-up.

Summary of Background Data:

Few studies have evaluated occipitocervical (OC) fusion using pedicle screws and rods for long-term follow-up.


Twenty-seven consecutive patients treated underwent posterior OC fusion using pedicle screws and rods over a minimum 5-year follow-up. The Modified McCormick scale to grade a patient’s functional status and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scoring system were used to evaluate preoperative and postoperative neurological function. We assessed fusion by both direct and indirect evidence; bony trabeculae at the graft-recipient interface on lateral cervical radiographs and sagittal computed tomography reconstruction was considered direct evidence of union.


The mean follow-up period was 7.2 years (5–14 y). JOA scores were 8.1±3.8 before surgery and 11.7±3.7 at the final follow-up. The recovery rate calculated from the JOA scores was 42.0±30.0%. Functional status did improve at least 1 grade according to the modified McCormick scale in 18 patients (66.7%). There was no deterioration at the final follow-up.


There were postoperative implant-related complications in 8 patients (29.6%): loosening of pedicle screws in 2, rod breakage in 2, plate breakage in 1, screw breakage in 1, pullout of pedicle screws in 1, and wiring induced myelopathy in 1 patient. The average duration between surgery and implant failure was 31.2 months (12–60 mo) except for 2.


Sufficient bone grafting, proper decortication of the bone bed, using thicker and high stiffness rods, and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene tape as a fixation or reinforcement of implant may help prevent implant failure.

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