Effect of Ventral vs Dorsal Spinal Surgery on Patient-Reported Physical Functioning in Patients with Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Zoher Ghogawala, Norma Terrin, Melissa R. Dunbar, Janis L. Breeze, Karen M. Freund, Adam S. Kanter, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Erica F. Bisson, Fred G. Barker, J. Sanford Schwartz, James S. Harrop, Subu N. Magge, Robert F. Heary, Michael G. Fehlings, Todd J. Albert, Paul M. Arnold, K. Daniel Riew, Michael P. Steinmetz, Marjorie C. Wang, Robert G. WhitmoreJohn G. Heller, Edward C. Benzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Cervical spondylotic myelopathy is the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction worldwide. It remains unknown whether a ventral or dorsal surgical approach provides the best results. Objective: To determine whether a ventral surgical approach compared with a dorsal surgical approach for treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy improves patient-reported physical functioning at 1 year. Design, Setting, and Participants: Randomized clinical trial of patients aged 45 to 80 years with multilevel cervical spondylotic myelopathy enrolled at 15 large North American hospitals from April 1, 2014, to March 30, 2018; final follow-up was April 15, 2020. Interventions: Patients were randomized to undergo ventral surgery (n = 63) or dorsal surgery (n = 100). Ventral surgery involved anterior cervical disk removal and instrumented fusion. Dorsal surgery involved laminectomy with instrumented fusion or open-door laminoplasty. Type of dorsal surgery (fusion or laminoplasty) was at surgeon's discretion. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was 1-year change in the Short Form 36 physical component summary (SF-36 PCS) score (range, 0 [worst] to 100 [best]; minimum clinically important difference = 5). Secondary outcomes included 1-year change in modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association scale score, complications, work status, sagittal vertical axis, health resource utilization, and 1-and 2-year changes in the Neck Disability Index and the EuroQol 5 Dimensions score. Results: Among 163 patients who were randomized (mean age, 62 years; 80 [49%] women), 155 (95%) completed the trial at 1 year (80% at 2 years). All patients had surgery, but 5 patients did not receive their allocated surgery (ventral: n = 1; dorsal: n = 4). One-year SF-36 PCS mean improvement was not significantly different between ventral surgery (5.9 points) and dorsal surgery (6.2 points) (estimated mean difference, 0.3; 95% CI,-2.6 to 3.1; P =.86). Of 7 prespecified secondary outcomes, 6 showed no significant difference. Rates of complications in the ventral and dorsal surgery groups, respectively, were 48% vs 24% (difference, 24%; 95% CI, 8.7%-38.5%; P =.002) and included dysphagia (41% vs 0%), new neurological deficit (2% vs 9%), reoperations (6% vs 4%), and readmissions within 30 days (0% vs 7%). Conclusions and Relevance: Among patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy undergoing cervical spinal surgery, a ventral surgical approach did not significantly improve patient-reported physical functioning at 1 year compared with outcomes after a dorsal surgical approach. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02076113.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-951
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 9 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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