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31.05.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 4/2017

European Spine Journal 4/2017

The feasibility of inserting a C1 pedicle screw in patients with ponticulus posticus: a retrospective analysis of eleven patients

European Spine Journal > Ausgabe 4/2017
Xin-Liang Zhang, Da-Geng Huang, Xiao-Dong Wang, Jin-Wen Zhu, Yi-Bing Li, Bao-Rong He, Ding-Jun Hao
Wichtige Hinweise
X.-L. Zhang and D.-G. Huang contributed equally to this work and should be considered co-first authors.



Ponticulus posticus is a common anatomic variation that can be mistaken for a broad posterior arch during C1 pedicle screw placement. When the atlas lateral mass screws are placed via the posterior arch, injury to the vertebral artery may result. To our knowledge, there are few clinical studies that have analyzed the feasibility of C1 pedicle screw fixation in patients with ponticulus posticus, in clinical practice.


To evaluate the feasibility of inserting a C1 pedicle screw in patients with ponticulus posticus.


Between January 2008 and January 2012, 11 consecutive patients with atlantoaxial instability, and with a ponticulus posticus at C1, underwent posterior fusion surgery in our institution. According to preoperative computed tomography (CT) reconstruction, a complete ponticulus posticus was found unilaterally in nine patients and bilaterally in two. Postoperative CT reconstructive imaging was performed to assess whether C1 pedicle screw placement was successful. Patients were followed up at regular intervals and evaluated for symptoms of ponticulus posticus syndrome.


Thirteen C1 pedicles (atlas vertebral artery groove), each with a complete ponticulus posticus, were successfully inserted with thirteen 3.5- or 4.0-mm diameter pedicle screws, without resection of the bony anomaly. No intraoperative complications (venous plexus, vertebral artery, or spinal cord injury) occurred. The mean follow-up period was 21 (range 14–30) months. Postoperative CT reconstructive images showed that all 13 pedicle screws were inserted in the C1 pedicles without destruction of the atlas pedicle cortical bone. In the follow-up period, none of the patients demonstrated clinical symptoms of ponticulus posticus syndrome or developed bone fusion.


Three-dimensional CT imaging should be considered prior to C1 pedicle screw fixation in patients with ponticulus posticus, to avoid mistaking the ponticulus posticus for a widened dorsal arch of the atlas. If there is no ponticulus posticus syndrome preoperatively, C1 pedicle screw fixation can be successfully performed without removing the bony anomaly.

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