Asian Spine J.  2019 Dec;13(6):890-894. 10.31616/asj.2019.0006.

Anatomic Considerations of Anterior Transarticular Screw Fixation for Atlantoaxial Instability

  • 1Department of Orthopaedics, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India.
  • 2Department of Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India.


STUDY DESIGN: Cadaveric, observational study. PURPOSE: Atlantoaxial instability (AAI) is characterized by excessive movement at the C1-C2 junction between the atlas and axis. An anterior surgical approach to expose the upper cervical spine for internal fixation and bone grafting has been developed to fix AAI. Currently, no anatomic information exists on the anterior transarticular atlantoaxial screw or screw and plate fixation between C1 and C2 in the Indian population. The objective of this study is to assess the anatomic landmarks of C1-C2 vertebrae: entry point, trajectory, screw length, and safety of the procedure. OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE: Methods outlined by Magerl and Harms are the optimal approaches among the dorsal techniques. Contraindications for these techniques include aberrant location of vertebral arteries, fractures of C1-C2 posterior structures. In these cases, anterior transarticular fixation is an alternative. Several available screw insertion trajectories have been reported. Biomechanical studies have demonstrated that adequate rigidity of this fixation is comparable with posterior fusion techniques.
Direct measurements using Vernier calipers and a goniometer were recorded from 30 embalmed human cadavers. The primary parameters measured were the minimum and maximum lateral and posterior angulations of the screw in the sagittal and coronal planes, respectively, and optimum screw length, if it was placed accurately.
The posterior and lateral angles of screw placement in the coronal and sagittal planes ranged from 16° to 30° (mean±standard deviation [SD], 23.93°±3.93°) and 8° to 17° (mean±SD, 13.3°±2.26°), respectively. The optimum screw length was 25-38 mm (mean±SD, 28.76±3.69 mm).
If the screw was inserted without lateral angulation, the spinal canal or cord could be violated. If a longer screw was inserted with greater posterior angulation, the vertebral artery at the posterior or posterolateral aspect of the C1 superior facet could be violated. Thus, 26° and 30° of lateral and posterior angulations, respectively, are the maximum angles permissible to avoid injury of the vertebral artery and violations of the spinal canal or atlanto-occipital joint.


Atlantoaxial instability; Transarticular screw; Cadaveric

MeSH Terms

Anatomic Landmarks
Atlanto-Occipital Joint
Bone Transplantation
Observational Study
Spinal Canal
Vertebral Artery
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