Review Article| Volume 135, ISSUE 5, P591-595, May 2023

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Osteoradionecrosis of the cervical spine: an analysis of the literature

Published:September 07, 2022DOI:


      The purpose of this manuscript is to review the current literature on osteoradionecrosis of the cervical spine (C-ORN) and to summarize the risk factors, presenting symptoms and management strategies of this rare condition.

      Study Design

      A systematic review of the literature on C-ORN was completed using PubMed. Nineteen articles met criteria; 97 patient cases were identified. Statistical analysis was completed from the patient cases.


      Of the analyzed patients, 72% are male and 28% are female with an average age of 57.7 years. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma was the most common initial diagnosis (72%). Thyroid and other lower neck cancers were associated with a later onset of C-ORN compared with other cancers. C-ORN more commonly occurred in the clivus to C2 (55.3%, P = .004). Onset of C-ORN significantly differed for men (n = 6.99 years) and women (n = 17.5 years) (P = .022).


      C-ORN can be a devastating complication of head and neck radiation therapy. C-ORN is associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and most commonly affects the area of the clivus to cervical vertebrae C2. Cancers of the lower neck and female sex are associated with later onset. Initial presentation ranges from asymptomatic to severe neurologic deficits; the degree of intervention should be congruent with the severity of presenting symptoms. As long-term survival of patients with head and neck cancer increase, this complication may become more prevalent.
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