Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy: Natural Course and the Value of Diagnostic Techniques -WFNS Spine Committee Recommendations

Mehmet Zileli, Sachin A. Borkar, Sumit Sinha, Rui Reinas, Óscar L. Alves, Se Hoon Kim, Sumeet Pawar, Bala Murali, Jutty Parthiban

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: This study presents the results of a systematic literature review conducted to determine most up-to-date information on the natural outcome of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) and the most reliable diagnostic techniques. Methods: A literature search was performed for articles published during the last 10 years. Results: The natural course of patients with cervical stenosis and signs of myelopathy is quite variable. In patients with no symptoms, but significant stenosis, the risk of developing myelopathy with cervical stenosis is approximately 3% per year. Myelopathic signs are useful for the clinical diagnosis of CSM. However, they are not highly sensitive and may be absent in approximately one-fifth of patients with myelopathy. The electrophysiological tests to be used in CSM patients are motor evoked potential (MEP), spinal cord evoked potential, somatosensory evoked potential, and electromyography (EMG). The differential diagnosis of CSM from other neurological conditions can be accomplished by those tests. MEP and EMG monitoring are useful to reduce C5 root palsy during CSM surgery. Notable spinal cord T2 hyperintensity on cervical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is correlated with a worse outcome, whereas lighter signal changes may predict better outcomes. T1 hypointensity should be considered a sign of more advanced disease. Conclusion: The natural course of CSM is quite variable. Signal changes on MRI and some electrophysiological tests are valuable adjuncts to diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-402
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sep



  • Cervical spondylotic myelopathy
  • Electrophysiology
  • Intraoperative monitoring
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Mr signal intensity
  • Myelopathic signs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

Zileli, M., Borkar, S. A., Sinha, S., Reinas, R., Alves, Ó. L., Kim, S. H., Pawar, S., Murali, B., & Parthiban, J. (2019). Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy: Natural Course and the Value of Diagnostic Techniques -WFNS Spine Committee Recommendations. Neurospine, 16(3), 386-402. https://doi.org/10.14245/ns.1938240.120