BACKGROUND: Preoperative duration of symptoms may significantly impact outcomes in patients treated surgically for degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM). OBJECTIVE: To (i) analyze whether duration of symptoms is associated with preoperative functional impairment, disability, and quality of life and (ii) determine the optimal timing for decompressive surgery. METHODS: 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 duration of symptoms groups in 4-mo increments. RESULTS: Our 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. CONCLUSION: 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.
- Degenerative cervical myelopathy
- Duration of symptoms
- Modified Japanese Orthopedic Association score
- Preoperative disease severity
- Preoperative myelopathy severity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology