Intramedullary high signal intensity and neurological status as prognostic factors in cervical spondylotic myelopathy

Acta Neurochir (2010) 152:1687–1694. DOI 10.1007/s00701-010-0692-8

The neurological outcome of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) may depend on multiple factors, including age, symptom duration, cord compression ratio, cervical curvature, canal stenosis, and factors related to magnetic resonance (MR) signal intensity (SI). Each factor may act independently or interactively with others. To clarify the factors in prognosis, we prospectively analyzed the outcomes of patients with myelopathy caused by soft disc herniation in correlation with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings and other clinical parameters.

Materials and methods From June 2006 to July 2009, we performed surgical operations in 137 patients with CSM. Of these patients, 70 (51.1%), including 45 men and 25 women with ventral cord compression at one or two levels, underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The mean duration of follow-up was 32.7 months. We surveyed the cervical curvature index (CCI), canal stenosis (Torg–Pavlov ratio), cord compression ratio, the length of SI change on T2WI, and clinical outcome using the Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) score for cervical myelopathy. The MRI SI was evaluated by grade: grade 0, no change in signal intensity; grade 1, light signal change; and grade 2, bright signal change on the T2WI. Multifactorial effects were identified by regression analysis.

Results The mean preoperative and postoperative JOA scores were 10.5±2.9 and 14.9±2.1, respectively (p< 0.05). The mean recovery rate based on the JOA score was 70.0±20.1%. The respective preoperative JOA scores and recovery ratios(%) were 11.6±2.3 and 81.5±17.0% in 20 patients with SI grade 0; 10.8±2.3 and 70.1±17.3% in 25 patients with grade 1; and 9.2±3.6 and 60.7±20.9% in 25 patients with grade 2, respectively. Post-surgical neurological outcome showed no significant relationship to age, symptom duration, cervical alignment, stenosis, or cord compression.

Conclusions Among the variables tested, preoperative neurological status and intramedullary signal intensity were significantly related to neurological outcome. The better the preoperative neurological status was, the better the postoperative neurological outcome. The SI grade on the preoperative T2WI was negatively related to neurological outcome. Hence, the severity of SI change and preoperative neurological status emerged as significant prognostic factors in post-operative CSM.

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