Atlantoaxial Dislocation

Atlantoaxial Dislocation

Atlantoaxial Dislocation is the loss of normal alignment and stability of the first and second vertebrae with respect to each other. It is a rare but serious condition that can cause physical deformity, spinal instability, injury to the cervical spinal cord, and can even lead to death in most serious cases.

The condition must be appropriately diagnosed and managed to prevent serious consequences.

Causes of Atlantoaxial Dislocation

Atlantoaxial Dislocation can be caused by various factors which can be classified into three categories –

inflammatory, congenital, and traumatic. Rheumatic Arthritis is the most common inflammatory disease which can cause Atlantoaxial dislocation by affecting the craniovertebral junction. Several congenital disorders are associated with Atlantoaxial Dislocation, one of the most common ones is Down syndrome. Atlantoaxial Dislocation can also be caused by the severe head injury resulting in disruption of ligaments or fracture of vertebrae.

Signs and Symptoms

There is a wide range of signs and symptoms exhibited by patients suspected of Atlantoaxial dislocation.

Some of the symptoms from mild to severe are – 

Mild axial neck pain
Tingling or pricking by pins and needles sensation in hands and feet.
Signs of spinal cord injury
In severe cases, the patient may be presented with paralysis from the neck down.
In severe trauma cases, it can lead to death.

For diagnosis of Atlantoaxial dislocation, the healthcare Specialists in Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics will carry out an examination based on symptoms, checking muscles and nerves all over the body. X-Ray, Computer Tomography (CT) scan, and MRI will be carried out for detailed examination and establish the diagnosis. Measurement of fracture length in CT scan images is used for assessment. Apart from these, Atlantodens Interval (ADI) is another technique to diagnose Atlantoaxial dislocation.


There is a wide variety of treatments provided based on the patient’s severity and symptoms. Some of the patients with symptoms are advised to go for surgical fixation to avoid future neurological disorders. In some of the cases where symptoms are not very severe, the patient may be suggested a rigid cervical collar or halo immobilization.