Review Article

HSS Journal

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 170-178

Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy: Pathophysiology, Clinical Presentation, and Treatment

  • Darren R. LeblAffiliated withSpine and Scoliosis Surgery, The Hospital For Special SurgeryWeill Cornell Medical College Email author 
  • , Alex HughesAffiliated withThe Spine Surgery Service, Spine Care Insititute, The Hospital for Special SurgeryWeill Cornell Medical College
  • , Frank P. CammisaJrAffiliated withThe Spine Surgery Service, Spine Care Insititute, The Hospital for Special SurgeryWeill Cornell Medical College
  • , Patrick F. O’LearyAffiliated withThe Spine Surgery Service, Spine Care Insititute, The Hospital for Special SurgeryWeill Cornell Medical College

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Abstract

Age-related changes in the spinal column result in a degenerative cascade known as spondylosis. Genetic, environmental, and occupational influences may play a role. These spondylotic changes may result in direct compressive and ischemic dysfunction of the spinal cord known as cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Both static and dynamic factors contribute to the pathogenesis. CSM may present as subclinical stenosis or may follow a more pernicious and progressive course. Most reports of the natural history of CSM involve periods of quiescent disease with intermittent episodes of neurologic decline. If conservative treatment is chosen for mild CSM, close clinical and radiographic follow-up should be undertaken in addition to precautions for trauma-related neurologic sequelae. Operative treatment remains the standard of care for moderate to severe CSM and is most effective in preventing the progression of disease. Anterior surgery is often beneficial in patients with stenotic disease limited to a few segments or in cases in which correction of a kyphotic deformity is desired. Posterior procedures allow decompression of multiple segments simultaneously provided that adequate posterior drift of the cord is attainable from areas of anterior compression. Distinct risks exist with both anterior and posterior surgery and should be considered in clinical decision-making.

Keywords

cervical spine spondylosis myelopathy natural history operative treatment