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J Neurosurg Spine. 2009 Aug;11(2):170-3. doi: 10.3171/2009.3.SPINE08724.

Anterior cervical surgery for the treatment of cervical degenerative myelopathy.

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  • 1Division of Neurological Surgery, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama, USA.



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).


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.


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).


Treatment of mild CSM may involve surgical decompression or nonoperative therapy for the first 3 years after diagnosis. More severe CSM (mJOA scale score <or= 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.

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