Hypoplastic occipital condyle and third occipital condyle: Review of their dysembryology

R. Shane Tubbs, Patrick Ryan Lingo, Martin M. Mortazavi, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

8 Scopus citations


Disruption or embryologic derailment of the normal bony architecture of the craniovertebral junction (CVJ) may result in symptoms. As studies of the embryology and pathology of hypoplasia of the occipital condyles and third occipital condyles are lacking in the literature, the present review was performed. Standard search engines were accessed and queried for publications regarding hypoplastic occipital condyles and third occipital condyles. The literature supports the notion that occipital condyle hypoplasia and a third occipital condyle are due to malformation or persistence of the proatlas, respectively. The Pax-1 gene is most likely involved in this process. Clinically, condylar hypoplasia may narrow the foramen magnum and lead to lateral medullary compression. Additionally, this maldevelopment can result in transient vertebral artery compression secondary to posterior subluxation of the occiput. Third occipital condyles have been associated with cervical canal stenosis, hypoplasia of the dens, transverse ligament laxity, and atlanto-axial instability causing acute and chronic spinal cord compression. Treatment goals are focused on craniovertebral stability. A better understanding of the embryology and pathology related to CVJ anomalies is useful to the clinician treating patients presenting with these entities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-932
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • anatomy
  • craniovertebral junction
  • occiput
  • pathology
  • skull base

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology

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