Craniocervical Junction Abnormalities

Craniocervical junction abnormalities are defects in the cervical spine, which contains the bones located at the base of the skull and top of the spine. These abnormalities can damage and squeeze the nerves inside the spinal cord that lead to the brain, as well as the lower part of the brain (the brain stem). Craniocervical junction abnormalities can be present at birth, or they may develop later in life due to an injury or a disorder.



Craniocervical junction abnormalities symptoms include:

  • Neck pain, along with a headache at the back of the head 
  • Burning pain that spreads down the arms, legs or buttocks
  • Cramping, numbness or weakness in hands
  • Difficulty with hand and leg coordination
  • Numbness in feet
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Involuntary movement of the eyes
  • Ear pain/ringing
  • Feeling off-balance

You may also experience limited range of motion in your neck.


If symptoms of a craniocervical junction disorder occur later in life, your doctor will begin by assessing your symptoms. You will likely have imaging tests, including an MRI, CT scan or X-rays.

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Treatment Options

Dr. Amin Kassam, Aurora’s Vice President of Neurosciences, explains the Expanded Endonasal Approach.

If you have craniocervical junction abnormalities, your doctor will work with you to determine the most effective treatment. Treatments may include:

  • A surgical procedure called decompression to help relieve pressure on the brain and spine
  • Surgery to stabilize the spine
  • The Expanded Endonasal Approach (EEA), a minimally invasive procedure that allows your surgeon to access the skull by going through the nasal cavities, resulting in no incisions, a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery than traditional brain surgery.

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