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Surgical Fusion May Benefit Skull-Spine Instability

Study on occipitocervical fusion examined use of rods, plates and screws in 69 patients

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Occipitocervical fusion with rigid internal fixation is safe and effective for treating occipitocervical instability caused by a variety of factors, researchers report in the August issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine.

Russ P. Nockels, M.D., of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., and colleagues prospectively studied 69 consecutive patients undergoing implantation of plates or screws and rods to stabilize the occipitocervical junction. Causes of the underlying instability included rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, cancer and congenital anomalies.

There were no deaths related to the procedure or significant complications immediately afterward, including neurological injuries. During the follow-up period (mean 37 months), 87 percent of patients showed improvement in their myelopathic symptoms.

"In our experience, rigid occipitocervical fixation proved to be safe and beneficial to patients with a number of abnormalities. Care in preoperative planning, placement of the screws, and contouring of the plate allow application to a broad spectrum of disease states. Long-term evaluation of the device in terms of prolonged stability and fusion rates is satisfactory," the authors write.

Some of the authors of this study report receiving research support and consulting honoraria from companies involved in the manufacture of orthopedic devices.

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