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Cervical Myelopathy

About Cervical Myelopathy

Cervical myelopathy refers to dysfunction or damage to part of the spinal cord located in the neck. This could be caused by any condition that leads to damage, irritation, or inflammation of this portion of the spinal cord. Some of these conditions include herniated disc, degenerative spine disease, spinal tumors, or traumatic injury. The most common cause is cervical spondylosis, a condition caused by the degeneration of the spinal joints in the neck.

Symptoms of cervical myelopathy include numbness, weakness, balance problems, and bowel/bladder difficulty. The most common symptoms include hand numbness and clumsiness (usually difficulty with tasks that require fine motor control like buttoning your shirt) and unsteadiness while standing or walking.

Common Symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy

  • Numbness and/or weakness of the arms/hands
  • Coordination problems
  • Muscle spasm
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tingling/burning sensation
  • A sense of urgency when urinating

Diagnosis of Cervical Myelopathy

The first steps to diagnosis a cervical myelopathy include a careful clinical history and physical examination. Imaging tests include X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, or CT myelograms. These image tests will show the compression of the spinal cord, how much of the spine is involved, and the nature of the compressing tissue.

Treatment Options for Cervical Myelopathy

Nonsurgical approaches may be considered to treat a myelopathy however this is highly variable and dependent on the cause of the myelopathy. Structural pressure on the spine or failed attempts at conservative treatments typically will lead to surgery. Some surgical options include:

  • Diskectomy – removal of the portion of the disc causing pressure to the spinal cord
  • Laminectomy – removal of part of the vertebra called the lamina
  • Cervical fusion – insertion of screws and a plate to stabilize the spine and prevent pressure on the spinal cord