Tetreault et al. analyzed whether duration of symptoms is associated with preoperative functional impairment, disability, and quality of life and (ii) determine the optimal timing for decompressive surgery.
Patients with DCM were prospectively enrolled in either the AOSpine North American or International study at 26 global sites (n = 757). Postoperative functional impairment was evaluated at 1-yr using the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score. Change scores between baseline and 1-yr were computed for the mJOA. Duration of symptoms was dichotomized into a “short” and “long” group at several cut-offs. Analysis of covariance was used to evaluate differences in change scores on the mJOA between the duration of symptoms groups in 4-mo increments.
The cohort consisted of 424 men and 255 women, with a mean duration of symptoms of 26.1 ± 36.4 mo (0.25-252 mo). Duration of symptoms was not correlated with preoperative mJOA, Nurick, Neck Disability Index, or Short-Form (SF)-36 Physical and Mental Component Scores. Patients with a duration of symptoms shorter than 4 mo had significantly better functional outcomes on the mJOA than patients with a longer duration of symptoms (>4 mo). Thirty-two months was also a significant cut-off.
Patients who are operated on within 4 mo of symptom presentation have better mJOA outcomes than those treated after 4 mo. It is recommended that patients with DCM are diagnosed in a timely fashion and managed appropriately 1).
Zileli et al. conducted a study to review the literature systematically to determine the most reliable outcome measures, important clinical and radiological variables affecting the prognosis in cervical spondylotic myelopathy patients. A literature search was performed for articles published during the last 10 years. As functional outcome measures they recommended to use modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association scale, Nurick scale, and Myelopathy Disability Index. Three clinical variables that affect the outcomes are age, duration of symptoms, and severity of the myelopathy. Examination findings require more detailed study to validate their effect on the outcomes. The predictive variables affecting the outcomes are hand atrophy, leg spasticity, clonus, and Babinski sign. Among the radiological variables, the curvature of the cervical spine is the most important predictor of prognosis. Patients with instability are expected to have a poor surgical outcome. Spinal cord compression ratio is a critical factor for prognosis. High signal intensity on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images is a negative predictor for prognosis. The most important predictors of outcome are preoperative severity and duration of symptoms. T2 hyperintensity and cord compression ratio can also predict outcomes. New radiological tests may give promising results in the future 2).
A study investigating quality of life in DCM patients indicated they suffer among the worst SF36 health scores of all chronic diseases 4).