OBJECTIVE: The authors assessed the rate of vertebral growth, curvature, and alignment for multilevel constructs in the cervical spine after occipitocervical fixation (OCF) in pediatric patients and compared these results with those in published reports of growth in normal children. METHODS: The authors assessed cervical spine radiographs and CT images of 18 patients who underwent occipitocervical arthrodesis. Measurements were made using postoperative and follow-up images available for 16 patients to determine cervical alignment (cervical spine alignment [CSA], C1-7 sagittal vertical axis [SVA], and C2-7 SVA) and curvature (cervical spine curvature [CSC] and C2-7 lordosis angle). Seventeen patients had postoperative and follow-up images available with which to measure vertebral body height (VBH), vertebral body width (VBW), and vertical growth percentage (VG% - that is, percentage change from postoperative to follow-up). Results for cervical spine growth were compared with normal parameters of 456 patients previously reported on in 2 studies. RESULTS: Ten patients were girls and 8 were boys; their mean age was 6.7 ± 3.2 years. Constructs spanned occiput (Oc)-C2 (n = 2), Oc-C3 (n = 7), and Oc-C4 (n = 9). The mean duration of follow-up was 44.4 months (range 24-101 months). Comparison of postoperative to follow-up measures showed that the mean CSA increased by 1.8 ± 2.9 mm (p < 0.01); the mean C2-7 SVA and C1-7 SVA increased by 2.3 mm and 2.7 mm, respectively (p = 0.3); the mean CSC changed by -8.7° (p < 0.01) and the mean C2-7 lordosis angle changed by 2.6° (p = 0.5); and the cumulative mean VG% of the instrumented levels (C2-4) provided 51.5% of the total cervical growth (C2-7). The annual vertical growth rate was 4.4 mm/year. The VBW growth from C2-4 ranged from 13.9% to 16.6% (p < 0.001). The VBW of C-2 in instrumented patients appeared to be of a smaller diameter than that of normal patients, especially among those aged 5 to < 10 years and 10-15 years, with an increased diameter at the immediately inferior vertebral bodies compensating for the decreased width. No cervical deformation, malalignment, or detrimental clinical status was evident in any patient. CONCLUSIONS: The craniovertebral junction and the upper cervical spine continue to present normal growth, curvature, and alignment parameters in children with OCF constructs spanning a distance as long as Oc-C4.
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