Jeroen G. J. Huybregts, Karma A. Barot, Camila Recio, Joanne Doucette, Rania A. Mekary, Carmen L. A. Vleggeert-Lankamp

October 2023, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 3434 - 3449 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-023-07779-1

First Online: 13 July 2023


Odontoid fractures are the most common cervical spine fractures in the elderly, with a controversial optimal treatment. The objective of this review was to compare the outcome of surgical and conservative treatments in elderly (≥ 65 years), by updating a systematic review published by the authors in 2013.


A comprehensive search was conducted in seven databases. Clinical outcome was the primary outcome. Fracture union- and stability were secondary outcomes. Pooled point estimates and their respective 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were derived using the random-effects model. A random-effects multivariable meta-regression model was used to correct for baseline co-variates when sufficiently reported.


Forty-one studies met the inclusion criteria, of which forty were case series and one a cohort study. No clinical differences in outcomes including the Neck Disability Index (NDI, 700 patients), Visual Analogue Scale pain (VAS, 180 patients), and Smiley-Webster Scale (SWS, 231 patients) scores were identified between surgical and conservative treatments. However, fracture union was higher in surgically treated patients (pooled incidence 72.7%, 95% CI 66.1%, 78.5%, 31 studies, 988 patients) than in conservatively treated patients (40.2%, 95% CI 32.0%, 49.0%, 22 studies, 912 patients). This difference remained after correcting for age and fracture type. Fracture stability (41 studies, 1917 patients), although numerically favoring surgery, did not appear to differ between treatment groups.


While surgically treated patients showed higher union rates than conservatively treated patients, no clinically relevant differences were observed in NDI, VAS pain, and SWS scores and stability rates. These results need to be further confirmed in well-designed comparative studies with proper adjustment for confounding, such as age, fracture characteristics, and osteoporosis degree.

Read Full Article