There is a need to better understand and predict postsurgical outcomes for degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) patients, particularly to support treatment decisions for patients with mild DCM. The goal of this study was to identify and predict outcome trajectories for DCM patients up to 2 years postsurgery.
The authors analyzed two North American multicenter prospective DCM studies (n = 757). Functional recovery and physical health component quality of life were assessed in DCM patients at baseline, 6 months, and 1 and 2 years postoperatively using the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score and Physical Component Summary (PCS) of the SF-36, respectively. Group-based trajectory modeling was used to identify recovery trajectories for mild, moderate, and severe DCM. Prediction models for recovery trajectories were developed and validated in bootstrap resamples.
Two recovery trajectories were identified for the functional and physical components of quality of life: good recovery and marginal recovery. Depending on outcome and myelopathy severity, one-half to three-fourths of the study patients followed the good recovery trajectory characterized by improvement in mJOA and PCS scores over time. The remaining one-half to one-fourth of patients followed the marginal recovery trajectory, experiencing little improvement and, in certain cases, worsening postoperatively. The prediction model for mild DCM had an area under the curve of 0.72 (95% CI 0.65–0.80), with preoperative neck pain, smoking, and posterior surgical approach noted as dominant predictors of marginal recovery.
Surgically treated DCM patients follow distinct recovery trajectories in the first 2 years postoperatively. While most patients experience substantial improvement, a significant minority experience little improvement or worsening. The ability to predict DCM patient recovery trajectories in the preoperative setting facilitates the formulation of individualized treatment recommendations for patients with mild symptoms.