Update on the Biomechanics of the Craniocervical Junction-Part I: Transverse Atlantal Ligament in the Elderly.

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Global Spine J


STUDY DESIGN: In vitro biomechanical study.

OBJECTIVE: The transverse ligament is the strongest ligament of the craniocervical junction and plays a critical role in atlanto-axial stability. The goal of this cadaveric study, and the subsequent study (part II), was to reevaluate the force required for the transverse ligament and alar ligament to fail in a more physiological biomechanical model in elderly specimens.

METHODS: Twelve C1-2 specimens were harvested from fresh-frozen Caucasian cadavers with a mean age at death of 81 years (range 68-89 years). Only the transverse ligament was preserved, and the bony C1-2 complex was left intact. The dens was pulled away from the anterior arch of C1 using a strength test machine that applies controlled increasing force. After testing, the axis was split in half to check for hidden pathologies and osteoporosis. The differences in the failure force between sex and age groups (group 1: <80 >years, group 2: >80 years) were compared.

RESULTS: The mean force required for the transverse ligament to fail was 236.2 ± 66 N (range 132-326 N). All but 2 specimens had significant osteoporotic loss of trabecular bone. No significant differences between sex and age groups were found.

CONCLUSIONS: The transverse ligament's failure in elderly specimens occurred at an average force of 236 N, which was lower than that reported in the previous literature. The ligament's failure force in younger patients differs and may be similar to the findings published to date.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)