A Systematic Review on Neurological Outcomes for Cervical Degenerative Myelopathy After Anterior Decompression Surgery: Motion Preservation vs Fusion

Valérie N E Schuermans*, Anouk Y J M Smeets, Lauren G C van de Kar, Sem M M Hermans, Inez Curfs, Toon F M Boselie, Henk van Santbrink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Although it is well established that surgically treated patients with cervical degenerative myelopathy (CDM) improve irrespective of the anterior decompression technique used, no consensus exists on what technique is superior in terms of neurological recovery. A general concern exists that anterior cervical discectomy with arthroplasty (ACDA) leads to less favorable outcomes in CDM due to microtrauma caused by preserved mobility. It is remarkable that current literature mainly uses pain scores to assess clinical outcomes after anterior decompression surgery, especially considering that pain may not be the most relevant outcome for CDM. This systematic review evaluated the literature concerning neurological outcomes in patients with CDM treated with anterior decompression surgery and assessed by validated myelopathy scores.

METHODS: Systematic searches were carried out in PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library. Prospective studies were included when patients with isolated CDM were treated with anterior decompression surgery, and a validated myelopathy outcome score was used.

RESULTS: A total of 11 studies were included from the 16,032 identified studies. All studies used the modified Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) outcome score and showed improvement for all anterior techniques. The mean improvement in anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) was 4.80 and 3.64 for the modified JOA and JOA outcome scores, respectively. The JOA for ACDA showed a mean improvement of 5.51. The overall quality of the included articles was low to moderate according to the Cochrane tool.

CONCLUSION: Neurological recovery of CDM is similar after all anterior decompression techniques, including ACDA when compared with ACDF.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The current literature gives no reason to dissuade the use of ACDA in cervical myelopathy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-976
JournalInternational Journal of Spine Surgery
Issue number6
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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