Regis W. Haid, Jr., MD, Spine Surgeon
The occipitocervical junction, which comprises the occiput, atlas, and axis, is the complex interface between the cranium and the cervical spine. Instability of the area is dangerous and can lead to damage to the spinal cord and the nerve roots. In the early 1900's the area was considered inoperable, and instability or lesions in the area were considered terminal. Fortunately, today's advanced techniques allow for fusion of the occipitocervical junction.
This type of fusion is most often requred as a result of atlanto-axial dislocation, spontaneous dislocation, or dislocation as a result of trauma (often following fracture of the dens). It may also be necessary as a method of restoring stability after extensive cervical decompression using a laminectomy.
Nonetheless, the surgical technique remains challenging and it is much less commonly performed than other types of cervical fusion. It is quite conceivable that a practicing spine surgeon in a small city may only perform the surgery once a year. Dr. Haid is a co-author of a number of medical articles on the technique and is an internationally recognized expert.
Dr. Haid has co-authored a number of medical articles discussing this procedure. Follow the link to one of those articles which provides a technical overview of the available atlantoaxial fixation techniques and their relative merits.