Patients who undergo surgery for cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) will occasionally develop postoperative neck pain that was not present preoperatively, yet the incidence of this phenomenon is unclear. The authors aimed to elucidate patient and surgical factors associated with new-onset sustained pain after CSM surgery.
The authors reviewed data from the Quality Outcomes Database (QOD) CSM module. The presence of neck pain was defined using the neck pain numeric rating scale (NRS). Patients with no neck pain at baseline (neck NRS score ≤ 1) were then stratified based on the presence of new postoperative pain development (neck NRS score ≥ 2) at 12 and 24 months postoperatively.
Of 1141 patients in the CSM QOD, 224 (19.6%) reported no neck pain at baseline. Among 170 patients with no baseline neck pain and available 12-month follow-up, 46 (27.1%) reported new postoperative pain. Among 184 patients with no baseline neck pain and available 24-month follow-up, 53 (28.8%) reported new postoperative pain. The mean differences in neck NRS scores were 4.3 for those with new postoperative pain compared with those without at 12 months (4.4 ± 2.2 vs 0.1 ± 0.3, p < 0.001) and 3.9 at 24 months (4.1 ± 2.4 vs 0.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.001). The majority of patients reporting new-onset neck pain reported being satisfied with surgery, but their satisfaction was significantly lower compared with patients without pain at the 12-month (66.7% vs 94.3%, p < 0.001) and 24-month (65.4% vs 90.8%, p < 0.001) follow-ups. The baseline Neck Disability Index (NDI) was an independent predictor of new postoperative neck pain at both the 12-month and 24-month time points (adjusted OR [aOR] 1.04, 95% CI 1.01–1.06; p = 0.002; and aOR 1.03, 95% CI 1.01–1.05; p = 0.026, respectively). The total number of levels treated was associated with new-onset neck pain at 12 months (aOR 1.34, 95% CI 1.09–1.64; p = 0.005), and duration of symptoms more than 3 months was a predictor of 24-month neck pain (aOR 3.22, 95% CI 1.01–10.22; p = 0.048).
Increased NDI at baseline, number of levels treated surgically, and duration of symptoms longer than 3 months preoperatively correlate positively with the risk of new-onset neck pain following CSM surgery. The majority of patients with new-onset neck pain still report satisfaction from surgery, suggesting that the risk of new-onset neck pain should not hinder indicated operations from being performed.