Traumatic Atlanto-Occipital Dislocation in Children

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Dr. Kingsley R. Chin Medical Paper

Scientific Paper

Hosalkar HS1Cain ELHorn DChin KRDormans JPDrummond DS.

Interested medical professionals can read through the full paper, also published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, here.


Traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation in children and adolescents is a rare and often fatal injury. Although historically most reported cases have been fatal, the advent of modern prehospital care has led to an increase in survival following this injury. As a consequence, some patients may achieve or maintain satisfactory neurologic function following early intervention, stabilization, and definitive management. We analyzed the data on children and adolescents in whom traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation had been treated with modern resuscitation techniques at our institution.


Atlanto-occipital dislocation is defined as disruption of the ligaments and other supporting soft tissues as indicated by displacement in either a transverse or vertical direction. With use of the Trauma Registry database at our institution, we identified sixteen such injuries that had occurred between 1986 and 2003. The hospital charts, clinic notes, and radiographs were reviewed. A careful neurological evaluation was performed for all of the survivors at the time of the latest follow-up.


The mean age of the sixteen patients at the time of the injury was 7.6 years. The mechanisms of injury were diverse. The mean Glasgow Coma Scale score was 7.4 points. Eleven of the sixteen patients underwent intubation in the field, two were intubated in the emergency department, and three were not intubated. Eight of the sixteen patients were declared dead on arrival in the emergency department. The eight surviving patients initially were immobilized with either a halo vest or another orthosis. All patients except one received intravenous steroids in the emergency department. Three of the patients who survived the initial injury subsequently died while undergoing neurosurgical procedures for the treatment of extensive intracranial injuries. Four of the remaining five survivors underwent occiput-C2 fusion, and one was managed with a Minerva cast. At the time of the final follow-up, at a mean of 4.2 years after the injury, one patient was neurologically normal, three had mild spastic hemiparesis and were very functional, and one had spastic quadriplegia and was ventilator-dependent.


Prompt recognition and treatment of traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation in children and adolescents can result in improved survival. Early diagnosis, prompt intubation, early and adequate immobilization of the head and neck, and the use of intravenous steroids appear to facilitate survival. We recommend arthrodesis from the occiput to C2 (or the nearest adjacent intact and stable vertebra caudad to C2) for all children who survive a traumatic atlanto-occipital dislocation, particularly those with an incomplete spinal cord injury.

About Author Dr. Kingsley R. Chin

Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Kingsley R. Chin on cervical research
Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, Founder of philosophy and practice of The LES Society and The LESS Institute

Dr. Kingsley R. Chin is a board certified Harvard-trained orthopedic spine surgeon and professor with copious business and information technology exposure. He sees a niche opportunity where medicine, business and info. tech meet – and is uniquely educated at the intersection of these three professions. He has experience as Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences & Admissions Committee Member at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Visiting Spine Surgeon & Professor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Biomedical Studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Learn more about Dr. Chin here and connect via LinkedIn.

About Less Exposure Surgery

Less Exposure Surgery (LES) is based on a new philosophy of performing surgery, leading the charge to prove through bench and clinical outcomes research that LES treatment options are the best solutions – to lowering the cost of healthcare, improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction. Learn more at

The LES Society philosophy: “Tailor treatment to the individual aiding in the quickest recovery and return to a pain-free lifestyle, using LES® techniques that lessen exposure, preserve unoffending anatomy and utilize new technologies which are safe, easy to adopt and reproducible. These LES®techniques lessen blood loss, surgical time and exposure to radiation and can be safely performed in an outpatient center. Less is more.” – Kingsley R. Chin, MD

About The LESS Institute

The LESS Institute is the world leader center of excellence in Less Exposure Surgery. Our safe, effective outpatient treatments help patients recover quickly, avoid expensive hospital stays and return home to their family the same day. Watch our patient stories, follow us on Facebook and visit to learn more.

About SpineFrontier

The above study utilized LES Technology from SpineFrontier – leading provider of LES Technologies and instruments – offering surgeons and patients superior technology and services.

Scientific Paper Author & Citation Details

Chin KR, et al. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2017


Hosalkar HS1Cain ELHorn DChin KRDormans JPDrummond DS.

Author information

  1. Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 34th and Civic Center Boulevard, Wood Building, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

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