Factors that can predict the recovery of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) patients postoperatively are of significant interest to physicians and patients and their families. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are a common method of examination after surgery, and thus of interest as a predictor of outcome.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether findings on MRI at 6 months postoperatively could predict recovery at 1 year in CSM patients.
METHODS: In 52 consecutive prospective patients, MRI was performed preoperatively and 6 months postoperatively. T1 and T2 signal change (area, height, and segmentation) and spinal cord re-expansion were measured. Outcome measures evaluated at 1 year postoperatively were compared with preoperative values. Univariate and stepwise multiple regressions were undertaken.
RESULTS: Using univariate analysis, patients whose cord failed to re-expand had poorer outcome according to the modified Japanese Orthopedic Association score and Nurick score (P = .014) and grip test (P = .006) postoperatively. Stepwise multivariate regression showed lack of cord re-expansion to be predictive of prognosis postoperatively in the modified Japanese Orthopedic Association score (P = .013) and Berg Balance Scale (P = .014), and walking test (P = .011). Postoperative hyperintense T2 signal change was predictive of worse outcome on the Berg Balance Scale (P = .014) and walking test (P = .020), Nurick score (P = .001), and Short Form-36 scores (P = .020). In cases in which the T2 signal intensified, there was a poorer outcome on Nurick scores (P = .013), grip test (P = .017), and Short Form-36 scores (P = .030).
CONCLUSION: Findings on postoperative MRI at 6 months is of predictive value in determining outcomes in CSM patients. The persistence and type of T2 signal change and lack of re-expansion of the cord correlate with poorer recovery and likely reflect irreversible structural changes in the spinal cord.