Basilar Invagination

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At the UCLA Health Spine Center, our experts diagnose, manage and treat all spinal injuries and conditions. Call 310-319-3475 to connect with a spine specialist.

What You Should Know About Basilar Invagination

Basilar Invagination is a relatively rare condition that occurs at the junction of the skull and the upper neck in which the upper portion of the second cervical vertebra migrates upward and posteriorly into the intracranial space. It can be associated with a number of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritisChiari malformationsyringomyelia, C1-2 instability, or congenital abnormalities.


Patients generally become symptomatic when the displaced vertebral segment causes sufficient pressure on the upper spinal cord or lower portion of the brainstem. The most common symptoms include loss of balance, loss of coordination, headaches, numbness/tingling in the extremities, and can lead to paralysis. Symptoms can become worse with flexion of the head, which even further drapes the spinal cord over the upper portion of C2.


This condition is diagnosed by various imaging modalities such as plain x-rays, CT scans, and MRI.


Patients with minimal symptoms can be treated with non-operative modalities such as physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or a cervical collar. Surgical treatment is reserved for patients with symptoms refractory to non-operative management, neurological deficit, or severe spinal cord compression. Surgery usually involves the removal of bone that is causing the compression and stabilization with a fusion.