A missed traumatic atlanto-axial rotatory subluxation in an adult patient: Case report

Bardia Barimani, Rayan Fairag, Fahad Abduljabbar, Ahmed Aoude, Carlo Santaguida, Jean Ouellet, Michael Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Traumatic atlanto-axial rotatory subluxation (AARS) in an adult is a rare condition, which if left untreated can be fatal. In addition to this, many symptoms experienced such as neck pain and stiffness are non-specific which often leads to misdiagnosis, thus delaying definitive treatment. AARS can be divided into traumatic and non-traumatic causes with the latter generally encompassing congenital cervical spine abnormalities. Case presentation: We present a case of a 66-year-old female with traumatic rotatory AARS, which was initially misdiagnosed in the emergency department. This patient was subsequently recalled to the hospital when the misdiagnosis was spotted the following day from imaging results. The patient was initially managed conservatively as an inpatient using head halter cervical traction which proved to give good clinical reduction allowing discharge with Miami J upon ambulation. Upon follow up the patient was experiencing continuous pain but remained neurovascularly intact. She thus opted for definitive management with C1-C2 stabilization with an open reduction and internal fixation. Conclusion: This case demonstrates the importance of having a high index of suspicion to diagnose AARS in cervical spine trauma presenting to the emergency department, until exclusion can be made using imaging and clinical examination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-42
Number of pages4
JournalOpen Access Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Atlanto-axial fixation
  • Atlanto-axial joint
  • Atlanto-axial subluxation
  • Rotatory
  • Torticollis
  • Traumatic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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