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Lindsay Tetreault, Jefferson R. Wilson, Mark R. N. Kotter, Aria Nouri, Pierre Côté, Branko Kopjar, Paul M. Arnold and Michael G. Fehlings

OBJECTIVE

The minimum clinically important difference (MCID) is defined as the minimum change in a measurement that a patient would identify as beneficial. Before undergoing surgery, patients are likely to inquire about the ultimate goals of the operation and of their chances of experiencing meaningful improvements. The objective of this study was to define significant predictors of achieving an MCID on the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) scale at 2 years following surgery for the treatment of degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM).

METHODS

Seven hundred fifty-seven patients were prospectively enrolled in either the AOSpine North America or International study at 26 global sites. Fourteen patients had a perfect preoperative mJOA score of 18 and were excluded from this analysis (n = 743). Data were collected for each participating subject, including demographic information, symptomatology, medical history, causative pathology, and functional impairment. Univariate log-binominal regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the association between preoperative clinical factors and achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale. Modified Poisson regression using robust error variances was used to create the final multivariate model and compute the relative risk for each predictor.

RESULTS

The sample consisted of 463 men (62.31%) and 280 women (37.69%), with an average age of 56.48 ± 11.85 years. At 2 years following surgery, patients exhibited a mean change in functional status of 2.71 ± 2.89 points on the mJOA scale. Of the 687 patients with available follow-up data, 481 (70.01%) exhibited meaningful gains on the mJOA scale, whereas 206 (29.98%) failed to achieve an MCID. Based on univariate analysis, significant predictors of achieving the MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age; female sex; shorter duration of symptoms; nonsmoking status; a lower comorbidity score and absence of cardiovascular disease; and absence of upgoing plantar responses, lower-limb spasticity, and broad-based unstable gait. The final model included age (relative risk [RR] 0.924, p < 0.0001), smoking status (RR 0.837, p = 0.0043), broad-based unstable gait (RR 0.869, p = 0.0036), and duration of symptoms (RR 0.943, p = 0.0003).

CONCLUSIONS

In this large multinational prospective cohort, 70% of patients treated surgically for DCM exhibited a meaningful functional gain on the mJOA scale. The key predictors of achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age, shorter duration of symptoms, nonsmoking status, and lack of significant gait impairment.