Factors affecting lateral mass screw placement at C-7: Clinical article

Kalil G. Abdullah, Amy S. Nowacki, Michael P. Steinmetz, Jeffrey C. Wang, Thomas E. Mroz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Object. The C-7 lateral mass has been considered difficult to fit with instrumentation because of its unique anatomy. Of the methods that exist for placing lateral mass screws, none particularly accommodates this anatomical variation. The authors have related 12 distinct morphological measures of the C-7 lateral mass to the ability to place a lateral mass screw using the Magerl, Roy-Camille, and a modified Roy-Camille method. Methods. Using CT scans, the authors performed virtual screw placement of lateral mass screws at the C-7 level in 25 male and 25 female patients. Complications recorded included foraminal and articular process violations, inability to achieve bony purchase, and inability to place a screw longer than 6 mm. Violations were monitored in the coronal, axial, and sagittal planes. The Roy-Camille technique was applied starting directly in the middle of the lateral mass, as defined by Pait's quadrants, with an axial angle of 15° lateral and a sagittal angle of 90°. The Magerl technique was performed by starting in the inferior portion of the top right square of Pait's quadrants and angling 25° laterally in the axial plane with a 45° cephalad angle in the sagittal plane. In a modified method, the starting point is similar to the Magerl technique in the top right square of Pait's quadrant and then angling 15° laterally in the axial plane. In the sagittal plane, a 90° angle is taken perpendicular to the dorsal portion of the lateral mass, as in the traditional Roy-Camille technique. Results. Of all the morphological methods analyzed, only a combined measure of intrusion of the T-1 facet and the overall length of the C-7 lateral mass was statistically associated with screw placement, and only in the Roy-Camille technique. Use of the Magerl technique allowed screw placement in 28 patients; use of the Roy-Camille technique allowed placement in 24 patients; and use of the modified technique allowed placement in 46 patients. No screw placement by any method was possible in 4 patients. Conclusions. There is only one distinct anatomical ratio that was shown to affect lateral mass screw placement at C-7. This ratio incorporates the overall length of the lateral mass and the amount of space occupied by the T-1 facet at C-7. Based on this virtual study, a modified Roy-Camille technique that utilizes a higher starting point may decrease the complication rate at C-7 by avoiding placement of the lateral mass screw into the T1 facet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-411
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical fusion
  • Cervical spine
  • Lateral mass
  • Lateral mass screws

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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