, Volume 35, Issue 10, pp 1517-1522
Date: 27 Nov 2010

Cervical spinal canal stenosis: the differences between stenosis at the lower cervical and multiple segment levels

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Abstract

The lower cervical segments are commonly the level responsible for cervical spondylotic myelopathy; however, we rarely encounter stenosis at the upper cervical segment in a clinical setting. We assumed that there might be some differences between the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the development of cervical canal stenosis at different segments. We performed positional MRI in the weight-bearing position for 295 consecutive symptomatic patients. All subjects were classified into four groups (A: normal; B: C3-4 stenosis; C: C5-6 stenosis; D: two-level cervical segments stenosis, stenosis at C3-4 and C5-6). Age, sagittal cervical canal diameter, cervical intervertebral disc degeneration, cervical cord compression, and cervical mobilities were evaluated for each group. Group B showed a narrow cervical spinal canal structure at the C3 to C4 pedicle levels, while groups C and D showed narrow structures at the C4 to C6 pedicle levels in the cervical spine. Additionally, the sagittal cervical canal diameters at all pedicle levels, except C7, in group D were significantly smaller than those observed in group C. We demonstrated the differences in the pathogenetic processes for the development of cervical spinal canal stenosis between C3-4, C5-6, and two-level cervical segments stenosis. Our results suggest that the developmental morphological structure of the cervical spinal canal plays an important role in the development of cervical canal stenosis at different segments. Moreover, individuals with sagittal cervical canal diameters of less than 13 mm may be exposed to an increased risk for future development of cervical spinal canal stenosis at the upper cervical segments following stenosis at the lower cervical segments.