Surgical challenges in posterior cervicothoracic junction instrumentation

Alberto Balestrino, Renato Gondar, Gianpaolo Jannelli, Gianluigi Zona, Enrico Tessitore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cervicothoracic junction (CTJ) is a region of the spine submitted to significant mechanical stress. The peculiar anatomical and biomechanical characteristics make posterior surgical stabilization of this area particularly challenging. We present and discuss our surgical series highlighting the specific surgical challenges provided by this region of the spine. We have analyzed and reported retrospective data from patients who underwent a posterior cervicothoracic instrumentation between 2011 and 2019 at the Neurosurgical Department of the Geneva University Hospitals. We have discussed C7 and Th1 instrumentation techniques, rods design, extension of constructs, and spinal navigation. Thirty-six patients were enrolled. We have preferentially used lateral mass (LM) screws in the subaxial spine and pedicle screws (PS) in C7, Th1, and upper thoracic spine. We have found no superiority of 3D navigation techniques over 2D fluoroscopy guidance in PS placement accuracy, probably due to the relatively small case series. Surgical site infection was the most frequent complication, significantly associated with tumor as diagnosis. When technically feasible, PS represent the technique of choice for C7 and Th1 instrumentation although other safe techniques are available. Different rod constructs are described although significant differences in biomechanical stability still need to be clarified. Spinal navigation should be used whenever available even though 2D fluoroscopy is still a safe option. Posterior instrumentation of the CTJ is a challenging procedure, but with correct surgical planning and technique, it is safe and effective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurosurgical Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Cervicothoracic junction
  • Lateral mass screw
  • Pedicle screw
  • Posterior instrumentation
  • Rods design
  • Spinal navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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