Controversies in the Management of Geriatric Odontoid Fractures

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Fractures of the odontoid process of C2 have become increasingly prevalent in the aging population and are typically associated with a high incidence of morbidity. Dens fractures comprise the majority of all cervical fractures in patients older than 80 years and remain the most common cervical fracture pattern in all geriatric patients. Type II odontoid fractures have been associated with limited healing potential, and both nonoperative and operative management are associated with high mortality rates. Historically, there has been some debate in the literature with regards to optimal management strategies to maximize outcomes in geriatric patients. Recent, high-quality evidence has indicated that surgical treatment of type II odontoid fractures in elderly patients is associated with improvements in both short- and long-term mortality. Additionally, surgical intervention has been shown to improve functional outcomes when compared with nonsurgical treatment. Factors to consider before surgery for geriatric type II odontoid fractures include associated comorbidities and the safety of general anesthesia administration. With appropriate measures of patient selection, surgery can provide an efficacious option for geriatric patients with type II odontoid fractures. We recommend surgical intervention via a posterior C1–C2 arthrodesis for geriatric type II odontoid fractures, provided that the surgery itself does not represent an unreasonable risk for mortality.

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