Cervical myelopathy is the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in the older population. The aging process results in degenerative changes in the cervical spine that, in advanced stages, can cause compression of the spinal cord.
There are various causes of cervical myelopathy such as trauma, viral processes, inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, tumors and most commonly degenerative conditions including spondylosis and disc herniation.
Symptoms of cervical myelopathy include:
- Neck stiffness
- Arm pain
- Numbness in the hands
- Weakness of the hands and legs
- Clumsy hands and feet
- Poor balance
Diagnosis of cervical myelopathy can be difficult because of the multiple causes and of similar symptoms. Gathering the medical history of each patient is crucial as each patient is different. Diagnosis is usually made based on the medical history as well as the results of various imaging studies that may be done in order to determine the correct diagnosis. MRIs may be used to obtain high-resolution images of the cervical spinal canal and the spinal cord.
The only treatment found to be effective in the treatment of cervical myelopathy is surgical decompression of the spinal canal. The main goal of this type of surgery is to halt the progressiveness of the condition and stabilize the patient's neurological condition.
The type of surgical procedure will be discussed with you by your surgeon and may either be through an anterior approach from the front of the neck or posterior approach from the back of the neck or if necessary a combined procedure in which both are used. The location where the decompression is being done is a partial factor on which approach is used. Surgery may include anterior cervical discectomy & fusion (ACDF) or anterior cervical corpectomy & fusion (ACCF). Or it may include a laminectomy.