Adverse effects of frailty on the outcomes of surgery for degenerative cervical myelopathy: results from a prospective multicenter international data set of 757 patients

Jamie R.F. Wilson, Jetan H. Badhiwala, Ali Moghaddamjou, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Paul M. Arnold, Ronald H.M.A. Bartels, Giuseppe Barbagallo, Michael G. Fehlings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE The goal of this study was to determine the effect of the degree of frailty on long-term neurological and functional outcomes after surgery for degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM). METHODS A combined database of patients enrolled in the Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy-North America and Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy-International prospective international multicenter observational studies who underwent surgery for DCM was used as the source data. All patients underwent baseline and follow-up assessment at 2 years after surgery for functional, disability, and quality of life measurements (modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association [mJOA] scale, Neck Disability Index, SF-36 physical and mental component summary scores). Patients were separated into 4 groups according to their baseline modified frailty index 5-point scale score: not frail, pre-frail, frail, and severely frail. Differences among groups were analyzed at baseline and at 2 years after surgery, including change in scores (delta values) and the odds ratio of achieving the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) through univariate and multivariable logistic regression adjusting for age, approach, number of levels treated, and sex. RESULTS A total of 757 patients (63% male) with a mean age of 56 (95% CI 55.5-57.2) years were included: 470 patients underwent an anterior approach, 310 had a posterior approach, and 23 had a combined anterior/posterior approach. A total of 50% (n = 378) of patients were classified as not frail, with 33% (n = 250) pre-frail, 13% (n = 101) frail, and 4% (n = 28) severely frail. The baseline mJOA score was significantly lower with increasing frailty (14.00 [95% CI 13.75-14.19] for not frail vs 9.71 [95% CI 9.01-10.42] for severely frail patients; p < 0.05), but the change at 2 years was not significantly different among all groups (2.43 [95% CI 2.16-2.71] for not frail vs 2.56 [95% CI 1.10-4.02] for severely frail). The SF-36 delta values were also not different among groups, but significantly worse at baseline with increasing frailty. The odds ratio of achieving MCID for mJOA was significantly higher in the not frail group (1.89 [95% CI 1.36-2.61]; p < 0.05) compared to the other frailty cohorts, which remained after adjusting for age, approach, levels treated, and sex. The odds ratio of achieving MCID for the SF-36 domains was similar among all frailty groups. CONCLUSIONS Increasing frailty is associated with worse baseline functional and quality of life measures in patients undergoing surgery for DCM. Frailty does not affect the magnitude of improvement in outcome measures after surgery, but reduces the chance of achieving the MCID for functional impairment significantly. Preoperative frailty assessment categocan therefore help guide clinicians in managing expectations after surgery for DCM. Potentially modifiable factors should be optimized in frail patients preoperatively to enhance functional outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-821
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • degenerative cervical myelopathy
  • elderly
  • frailty
  • outcomes
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Adverse effects of frailty on the outcomes of surgery for degenerative cervical myelopathy: results from a prospective multicenter international data set of 757 patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this