Odontoid fractures are the most common upper cervical spine fracture in adults over 70 years of age. Hence, treatment of these fractures has public health implications.
Evaluate the early complications, bone healing and mortality in patients above 75 years of age who undergo surgical treatment of an odontoid fracture. Compare the results between patients operated with the Harms technique or anterior screw fixation.
This was a retrospective study of 70 patients with an odontoid fracture who were treated surgically between 2000 and 2015 at the Hôpital de la Timone in France. The age at the time of diagnosis, comorbidities, ASA score and autonomy were evaluated. Bone healing was determined using computed tomography.
In the cohort, 22 patients underwent anterior screw fixation, 38 were treated using the Harms technique and 10 with other procedures. The average age was 85.1 years. Fifty-four percent of patients had an ASA score above 3. The average follow-up was 23.4 months. An Anderson type II fracture was present in 80.6% of patients. In the anterior screw fixation group, the operative time was significantly shorter than in the Harms group and no blood transfusions were needed. However, 13.6% of these patients had to be re-operated because the initial construct was unstable; no patients in the Harms group underwent revision surgery. There were more complications in the anterior screw fixation group than in the Harms group: 41% versus 13.2% (P<0.02). The fractures had healed in all patients reviewed after 1 year. The 3-month survival in the anterior screw fixation group was 64.7% and it was 81.3% in the Harms group. These rates were stable at 1 year with no statistical differences between groups.
Surgical treatment of odontoid fractures in the elderly results in an excellent union rate. The mortality rate is stable after 3 months. In our experience, the Harms technique has a lower risk of complications and better mechanical stability than anterior screw fixation. Despite the steep learning curve, we believe the Harms technique is probably the best choice for treating odontoid fractures in the elderly.
Level of evidence
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Keywords : Elderly, Bone union, Harms technique, Mortality, Odontoid fracture, Surgery