What is Crowned Dens Syndrome of the Spine?

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Crowned Dens Syndrome

Inside your spinal canal is an area known as the dens. The dens is a peg-like bone that points up from the second cervical vertebra and connects with the first cervical vertebra in order to assist your head in rotation. However, problems can develop when calcium deposits form on the bone’s attaching ligaments, which can give the bone a crown-like appearance, hence the term crowned dens syndrome. Below, we take a look at why the condition develops, what symptoms it causes and how it is treated.

Crowned Dens Causes and Symptoms

Medical experts aren’t exactly sure why bone deposits form on the dens, but they do know that certain populations are at a greater risk for developing the condition. Crowned dens syndrome is found to be more common in women and in individuals over the age of 60.

Common symptoms of crowned dens syndrome include:

  • Neck pain, especially with movement
  • Neck stiffness
  • Fever
  • Tingling/numbness in the upper neck
  • Reduced bladder control
  • Other neurological problems

It’s also worth noting that just because bone deposits form in the dens, doesn’t mean that you will experience symptoms. In fact, roughly 80 percent of individuals with bone deposits in the dens will not experience symptoms, so oftentimes the condition is asymptomatic.

Diagnosing and Treating Crowned Dens Syndrome

If bone deposits in the dens cause an inflammatory response in the neck, you may begin to notice symptoms. When this happens, it’s important to visit a spine specialist for a diagnosis. Diagnosis includes a physical examine and range of motion testing to get an idea of what motions cause discomfort. If the doctor suspects you are dealing with crowned dens syndrome, they may confirm their suspicions with an X-ray or CT scan which can reveal bone abnormalities.

Treatment of crowned dens syndrome will begin with conservative options. These treatments typically involve a combination of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and physical therapy. Research shows that most cases of symptomatic crowned dens syndrome resolve with conservative treatments, possibly due to resorption of the calcium deposits into the bone.

However, if conservative treatment fails, surgery may be an option, especially if the bone deposits are jeopardizing the integrity of your spinal cord. Your doctor can walk you through specific options should surgery become a necessity.


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