C5 palsy (C5P) is a known complication of cervical decompression surgery. The tethering effect of the C5 nerve root following the posterior shift of the spinal cord is the most accepted pathologic mechanism for C5P development; however, this mechanism cannot fully explain C5P by itself in clinical practice. Separately, some studies have suggested that preoperative severe spinal cord compression and postoperative morphological changes in the spinal cord affect C5P development; however, no previous study has quantitatively addressed these possibilities. The aim of this study was to examine whether spinal cord morphology and morphological restoration after surgery affect C5P development.
The authors reviewed consecutive patients with degenerative cervical myelopathy who underwent laminoplasty including the C3–4 and C4–5 intervertebral disc levels. All participants underwent MRI both preoperatively and within 4 weeks postoperatively. To assess the severity of spinal cord compression, the compression ratio (CR; spinal cord sagittal diameter/transverse diameter) was calculated. As an index of morphological changes in the spinal cord during the early postoperative period, the change rate of CR (CrCR, %) was calculated as CRwithin 4 weeks postoperatively/CRpreoperatively × 100. These measurements were performed at both the C3–4 and C4–5 intervertebral disc levels. The study cohort was divided into C5P and non-C5P (NC5P) groups; then, CR and CrCR, in addition to other radiographic variables associated with C5P development, were compared between the groups.
A total of 114 patients (mean age 67.6 years, 58.8% men) were included in the study, with 5 and 109 patients in the C5P and NC5P groups, respectively. Preoperative CR at both the C3–4 and C4–5 levels was significantly lower in the C5P group than in the NC5P group (0.35 vs 0.44, p = 0.042 and 0.27 vs 0.39, p = 0.021, respectively). Patients with C5P exhibited significantly higher CrCR at the C3–4 level than those without (139.3% vs 119.0%, p = 0.046), but the same finding was not noted for CrCR at the C4–5 level. There were no significant differences in other variables between the groups.
This study reveals that severe compression of the spinal cord and its greater morphological restoration during the early postoperative period affect C5P development. These findings could support the involvement of segmental cord disorder theory, characterized as the reperfusion phenomenon, in the pathomechanism of C5P, in addition to the tethering effect.