Object. The 847 active members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (AANS/CNS) Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves were surveyed to quantitate the risk of vertebral artery (VA) injury during C1-2 transarticular screw placement. Methods. This retrospective study elicited the number of patients treated with transarticular screws, the number of screws placed, the incidence of VA injury and subsequent neurological deficit, and the management of known or suspected VA injury. Two hundred thirteen (25.1%) of the 847 surgeons responded. One hundred one respondents (47.4%) had placed a total of 2492 C1-2 transarticular screws in 1318 patients. Thirty-one patients (2.4%) had known VA injuries and an additional 23 patients (1.7%) were suspected of having injuries. However, only two (3.7%) of the 54 patients with known or suspected VA injuries exhibited subsequent neurological deficits and only one (1.9%) died of bilateral VA injury. Other iatrogenic complications included dural tears, screw fractures, screw breakout, fusion failure, infection, and suboccipital numbness. Conclusions. Including both known and suspected cases, the risk of VA injury was 4.1% per patient or 2.2% per screw inserted. The risk of neurological deficit from VA injury was 0.2% per patient or 0.1% per screw, and the mortality rate was 0.1%. The choice of management of intraoperative VA injuries was evenly divided between placing the patient under observation and initiating immediate postoperative angiography with possible balloon occlusion.
- Spine instrumentation
- Transarticular screw fixation
- Vertebral artery injury