Anterior cervical surgery for the treatment of cervical degenerative myelopathy

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  • 1 Division of Neurological Surgery, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama;
  • 2 Division of Neurosurgery, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles;
  • 3 Department of Neurosurgery, University of California at San Francisco, California;
  • 4 Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and
  • 11 Neurological Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin;
  • 5 Department of Neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts;
  • 6 Department of Neurosurgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey—New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey;
  • 7 Department of Neurological Surgery, Neurological Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York;
  • 8 Department of Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa;
  • 9 Department of Neurosurgery, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York; and
  • 10 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania
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Object

The objective of this systematic review was to use evidence-based medicine to examine the efficacy of anterior cervical surgery for the treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM).

Methods

The National Library of Medicine and Cochrane Database were queried using MeSH headings and key words relevant to anterior cervical surgery and CSM. Abstracts were reviewed, and studies meeting inclusion criteria were selected. The guidelines group assembled an evidentiary table summarizing the quality of evidence (Classes I–III). Disagreements regarding the level of evidence were resolved through an expert consensus conference. The group formulated recommendations that contained the degree of strength based on the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines network. Validation was done through peer review by the Joint Guidelines Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Results

Mild CSM (modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association [mJOA] scale scores > 12) responds in the short term (3 years) to either surgical decompression or nonoperative therapy (prolonged immobilization in a stiff cervical collar, “low-risk” activity modification or bed rest, and antiinflammatory medications) (Class II). More severe CSM responds to surgical decompression with benefits being maintained a minimum of 5 years and as long as 15 years postoperatively (Class III).

Conclusions

Treatment of mild CSM may involve surgical decompression or nonoperative therapy for the first 3 years after diagnosis. More severe CSM (mJOA scale score ≤ 12) should be considered for surgery depending upon the individual case. The shortcomings of this systematic review are that the group was not able to determine whether an mJOA scale score of 12 was indicative of a more severe CSM disease course, and whether patients who received nonsurgical treatment for 3 years had a significant probability for clinical deterioration after that time point.

Abbreviations used in this paper: ADL = activity of daily living; CSM = cervical spondylotic myelopathy; JOA = Japanese Orthopaedic Association; mJOA = modified JOA.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Paul G. Matz, M.D., Neurosurgery and Neurology, LLC, 232 South Woods Mill Road, Chesterfield, Missouri 63017. email: matzpg@yahoo.com.
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