Sign Up for a Free Account
  • Updated 08.05.2020
  • Released 01.20.2008
  • Expires For CME 08.05.2023

Atlantoaxial dislocation



Atlantoaxial dislocation is the loss of normal alignment and stability of the first (atlas) and second (axis) cervical vertebrae with respect to each other. Etiologies are various, including trauma, congenital factors, infection, and connective tissue and autoimmune disorders. The condition must be appropriately diagnosed and managed to prevent deformity, spinal instability, and potential neurologic injury. The author reviews the pertinent features of this disorder as it is relevant to a wide range of healthcare professionals.

Key points

• Dislocation of the first (atlas) and second (axis) cervical vertebrae (ie, atlantoaxial dislocation or subluxation) is a rare but serious condition.

• Etiology is often multifactorial, but contributing factors include trauma, congenital abnormality of bone or supporting ligaments, or inflammation.

• Physical deformation and spinal instability are possible results.

• Injury to the cervical spinal cord and death are the most serious consequences of dislocation.

Historical note and terminology

Please note the terms “odontoid process” and “dens” are synonymous and used interchangeably in this article.

This is an article preview.
Start a Free Account
to access the full version.

  • Nearly 3,000 illustrations, 
including video clips of 
neurologic disorders.

  • Every article is reviewed by our esteemed Editorial Board for accuracy and currency.

  • Full spectrum of 
neurology in 1,200 
comprehensive articles.

Questions or Comment?

MedLink, LLC

10393 San Diego Mission Rd, Suite 120

San Diego, CA 92108-2134

Toll Free (U.S. + Canada): 800-452-2400

US Number: +1-619-640-4660