Deadly falls: operative versus nonoperative management of Type II odontoid process fracture in octogenarians

Christopher S. Graffeo, Avital Perry, Ross C. Puffer, Lucas P. Carlstrom, Wendy Chang, Grant W. Mallory, Michelle J. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Type II odontoid fracture is a common injury among elderly patients, particularly given their predisposition toward low-energy falls. Previous studies have demonstrated a survival advantage following early surgery among patients older than 65 years, yet octogenarians represent a medically distinct and rapidly growing population. The authors compared operative and nonoperative management in patients older than 79 years. METHODS A single-center prospectively maintained trauma database was reviewed using ICD-9 codes to identify octogenarians with C-2 cervical fractures between 1998 and 2014. Cervical CT images were independently reviewed by blinded neurosurgeons to confirm a Type II fracture pattern. Prospectively recorded outcomes included Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) score, Injury Severity Score (ISS), additional cervical fracture, and cord injury. Primary end points were mortality at 30 days and at 1 year. Statistical tests included the Student t-test, chi-square test, Fisher's exact test, Kaplan-Meier test, and Cox proportional hazard. RESULTS A total of 111 patients met inclusion criteria (94 nonoperative and 17 operative [15 posterior and 2 anterior]). Mortality data were available for 100% of patients. The mean age was 87 years (range 80-104 years). Additional cervical fracture, spinal cord injury, GCS score, AIS score, and ISS were not associated with either management strategy at the time of presentation. The mean time to death or last follow-up was 22 months (range 0-129 months) and was nonsignificant between operative and nonoperative groups (p = 0.3). Overall mortality was 13% in-hospital, 26% at 30 days, and 41% at 1 year. Nonoperative and operative mortality rates were not significant at any time point (12% vs 18%, p = 0.5 [in-hospital]; 27% vs 24%, p = 0.8 [30-day]; and 41% vs 41%, p = 1.0 [1-year]). Kaplan-Meier analysis did not demonstrate a survival advantage for either management strategy. Spinal cord injury, GCS score, AIS score, and ISS were significantly associated with 30-day and 1-year mortality; however, Cox modeling was not significant for any variable. Additional cervical fracture was not associated with increased mortality. The rate of nonhome disposition was not significant between the groups. CONCLUSIONS Type II odontoid fracture is associated with high morbidity among octogenarians, with 41% 1-year mortality independent of intervention-a dramatic decrease from actuarial survival rates for all 80-, 90-, and 100-year-old Americans. Poor outcome is associated with spinal cord injury, GCS score, AIS score, and ISS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-9
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery. Spine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • AIS = Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • cervical
  • elderly populations
  • GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale
  • ISS = Injury Severity Score
  • nonoperative management
  • SCI = spinal cord injury
  • spine trauma
  • Type II odontoid fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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