Clinical features and evoked potential recordings were analysed in 32 patients with congenital atlantoaxial dislocation before and after surgery. Seven patients (group 1) had atlantoaxial dislocation, while 22 patients had associated basilar invagination (group 2). In both groups, pyramidal tract signs, posterior column signs, wasting of the upper limbs, and abnormality of somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP) were similar. Conversely, lower cranial nerve involvement and abnormal brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEP) were significantly more in patients with basilar invagination (p less than 0.05). All seven patients in group 1 and 17 patients in group 2 were operated upon. Clinical and electrophysiological deterioration were significant in patients with basilar invagination (group 2), following posterior fixation compared with group 1. Among the patients in group 2, who clinically deteriorated following posterior fixation, seven had transoral excision of odontoid and six of them improved both clinically and electrophysiologically. Two patients in group 2 had odontoid excision before posterior fixation, and in both the evoked potentials improved postoperatively. In group 1 the patient's BAEP remained unaffected following posterior fixation, however, in group 2, eight patients over 53% showed improvement in brainstem function following posterior fixation. This study shows the value of evoked potentials in congenital atlantoaxial dislocation, and rationalizes the surgical procedure in these patients. In patients with basilar invagination, odontoid excision is the preferred first stage procedure.
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