Integrity of the tectorial membrane is a favorable prognostic factor in atlanto-occipital dislocation

Gil Kimchi, Gahl Greenberg, Vincent C. Traynelis, Christopher D. Witiw, Nachshon Knoller, Ran Harel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Atlanto-occipital dislocation is usually considered to be a fatal injury or one that leaves the victim with serious neurological deficits. The aim of this study is to illustrate a novel positive prognostic factor for atlanto-occipital dislocation, based on cervical MRI studies of patients who suffered this injury. Methods: Over the course of the past year, the authors have treated three consecutive patients with atlanto-occipital dislocation who attained an excellent clinical outcome. We retrospectively evaluated clinical, surgical and radiographic parameters in search of a common denominator to explain the excellent outcome of these patients. Results: All patients presented with severe polytrauma that required urgent surgical intervention including two laparotomies and a thoracotomy. The patients were subsequently treated with an occipitocervical fusion. No patient developed neurological deficits on long-term follow-up. The cervical MRI studies of all patients were notable for a having a preserved tectorial membrane, while other primary stabilizers of the craniocervical junction such as the apical, alar and cruciate ligaments were shown to be severely disrupted. We consider this anatomical distinction to account for their benign clinical course. Conclusion: A preserved tectorial membrane appears to be an important favorable prognostic factor in atlanto-occipital dislocation and may serve to mitigate neurological outcome in such injuries. To determine the integrity of the ligament and consequently affect clinical management, expeditious MRI of the cranio-cervical junction should be considered routinely in such injuries in addition to cervical CT scans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-474
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Atlanto-occipital dislocation
  • MRI
  • cervical trauma
  • craniocervical junction
  • occipitocervical dislocation
  • tectorial membrane


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