OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of allograft and iliac crest autograft in atlantoaxial fusion. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Between January 2012 and December 2012, 41 consecutive patients underwent posterior atlantoaxial fusion with a screw-rod fixation system in our spine center. The choice to use allograft or iliac crest autograft was made by the patient himself or herself after being informed about the advantages and disadvantages of both methods. In the allograft group, we used mixed material of morcellized demineralized freeze-dried bone allograft and local autograft for posterior atlantoaxial fusion. In the autograft group, we used the morcellized iliac crest autograft for fusion. Patients underwent regular follow up including CT scans and dynamic radiographs 6 months postoperatively and every 6 months thereafter until study completion or confirmation of fusion. RESULTS: Twenty-four patients underwent posterior atlantoaxial fusion with allograft, and 17 underwent fusion with autograft. All patients were followed up for at least 24 months. At the final follow-up visit, only two (8.3%) patients in the allograft group had confirmed posterior bony fusion on CT imaging while 15 (88.2%) patients in the autograft group had confirmed posterior bony fusion. None of the 41 patients had movement on the dynamic radiographs. CONCLUSIONS: Allograft is not reliable for posterior atlantoaxial fusion even with the rigid internal fixation of modern constructs. Autograft remains the first choice for atlantoaxial fusion despite the donor-site morbidity. The assessment of fusion based on a lack of movement on dynamic radiographs is not reliable. The confirmation of fusion should be based on the presence of bridging bone on CT imaging.
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