The Corona Dentis: Description of an Anatomic Variant with Technical Implications for Anterior Odontoid Screw Placement.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

World Neurosurg


Bone Screws; Cadaver; Fracture Fixation, Internal; Humans; Odontoid Process; Spinal Fractures


BACKGROUND: Type 2 odontoid fractures are the most common cervical fractures among the elderly. Neurologic deficit is usually caused by myelopathy as a result of posterior dens migration. Direct anterior screw placement provides stabilization and can preserve C1-C2 movement. The presence of a bony excrescence on the anterior superior tip of the dens may lead to placement of a screw of incorrect length.

METHODS: Twenty C2 dry specimens were examined for the presence of a corona dentis, which is a bony excrescence in the coronal plane near the apex of the dens. When identified, measurements of the corona dentis were performed using calipers and a ruler. In addition, anteroposterior (AP) and lateral fluoroscopy was performed on all specimens found to have a corona dentis.

RESULTS: A corona dentis was found on 20% of our C2 specimens and had an average width of 9 mm and an average height of 4.5 mm. The average width of the dens did not vary as the normal tip of the dens transitioned into the coronae. In no specimen did the corona dentis seem to be composed of trabecular bone and it was seen as a superior projection of cortical bone on fluoroscopy. On fluoroscopy, the corona dentis could be identified on a true AP projection. In angulated AP views, fluoroscopic images overestimated the length of the corona dentis.

CONCLUSIONS: We describe a new entity termed the corona dentis because of its crownlike feature. It is a superior cortical bone protrusion and should be noted as a variant of the dens during anterior odontoid screw placement. Its propensity to increase the height of the dens markedly can lead to higher rates of neurologic deficits during type 2 odontoid fractures if not appreciated. A true AP view is critical for correct screw size placement.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)




Pathology & Laboratory Medicine