Anatomic relationship of the internal carotid artery to the C1 vertebra: A case report of cervical reconstruction for chordoma and pilot study to assess the risk of screw fixation of the atlas.

Bradford L. Currier, Larry T. Todd, Timothy P. Maus, Dean R. Fisher, Michael J. Yaszemski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

STUDY DESIGN: A case of internal carotid artery impingement by the tip of a well-positioned C1-C2 transarticular screw is presented along with a pilot study involving radiologic and anatomic evaluation of human cadaveric specimens. OBJECTIVE: To raise awareness that the internal carotid artery may be in close proximity to the anterior aspect of the atlas and at risk of injury during placement of C1-C2 transarticular screws or C1 lateral mass screws. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: To our knowledge, no cases of internal carotid artery injury or impingement have been reported with screw fixation of the atlas. METHODS: A case of internal carotid artery impingement by a C1-C2 transarticular screw is presented. The C1-C2 rotation appeared to place the internal carotid artery in the path of the screw, prompting a pilot study. Three fresh-frozen human cadaveric head and neck specimens were fixed in different degrees of rotation. Thin-section computed tomography of the specimens was obtained in the plane of the atlas. The frozen specimens were sectioned in the same plane as the computed tomography images. Measurements were taken to assess the location of the internal carotid artery relative to the anterior aspect of the atlas. RESULTS: Cervical rotation does not have a predictable effect on the location of the internal carotid artery. Medial angulation of a screw placed in the lateral mass of C1 appears to increase the margin of safety for the internal carotid artery. The internal carotid artery varies in location and may be within 1 mm of the ideal exit point of a bicortical transarticular screw or a C1 lateral mass screw. CONCLUSIONS: The internal carotid artery is at risk during bicortical screw fixation of the atlas. We recommend a contrast-enhanced computed tomography to assess the location of the internal carotid artery before screw fixation of the atlas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E461-467
JournalSpine
Volume28
Issue number22
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology

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