The safety and efficacy of anterior versus posterior decompression surgery in degenerative cervical myelopathy: a prospective randomized trial

J Neurosurg Spine 33:288–296, 2020

The safety and efficacy of anterior and posterior decompression surgery in degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) have not been validated in any prospective randomized trial.

METHODS In this first prospective randomized trial, the patients who had symptoms or signs of DCM were randomly assigned to undergo either anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or posterior laminectomy with or without fusion. The primary outcome measures were the change in the visual analog scale (VAS) score, Neck Disability Index (NDI), and Nurick myelopathy grade 1 year after surgery. The secondary outcome measures were intraoperative and postoperative complications, hospital stay, and Odom’s criteria. The follow-up period was at least 1 year.

RESULTS A total of 68 patients (mean age 53 ± 8.3 years, 72.3% men) underwent prospective randomization. There was a significantly better outcome in the NDI and VAS scores in the anterior group at 1 year (p < 0.05). Nurick myelopathy grading showed nonsignificant improvement using the posterior approach group (p = 0.79). The mean operative duration was significantly longer in the anterior group (p < 0.001). No significant difference in postoperative complications was found, except postoperative dysphagia was significantly higher in the anterior group (p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in postoperative patient satisfaction (Odom’s criteria) (p = 0.52). The mean hospital stay was significantly longer in the posterior group (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS Among patients with multilevel DCM, the anterior approach was significantly better regarding postoperative pain, NDI, and hospital stay, while the posterior approach was significantly better in terms of postoperative dysphagia and operative duration.