Degenerative cervical myelopathy
Neurosurgery Service, Alicante University General Hospital, Alicante, Spain.
The assessment, diagnosis, operative and nonoperative management of degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) have evolved rapidly over the last 20 years. A clearer understanding of the pathobiology of DCM has led to attempts to develop objective measurements of the severity of myelopathy, including technology such as multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging, biomarkers, and ancillary clinical testing. New pharmacological treatments have the potential to alter the course of surgical outcomes, and greater innovation in surgical techniques have made surgery safer, more effective and less invasive. Future developments for the treatment of DCM will seek to improve the diagnostic accuracy of imaging, improve the objectivity of clinical assessment, and increase the use of surgical techniques to ensure the best outcome is achieved for each individual patient 1).
Goel was troubled by the fact that his several PubMed and MEDLINE indexed articles on the subject published in leading journals dedicated to the study of the spine have not found any place in the huge reference list of 137 articles 2)
A review of Tetreault et al. summarizes current knowledge of the pathophysiology of DCM and describes the cascade of events that occur after compression of the spinal cord, including ischemia, destruction of the blood-spinal cord barrier, demyelination, and neuronal apoptosis. Important features of the diagnosis of DCM are discussed in detail, and relevant clinical and imaging findings are highlighted. Furthermore, this review outlines valuable assessment tools for evaluating functional status and quality of life in these patients and summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of each. Other topics of this review include epidemiology, the prevalence of degenerative changes in the asymptomatic population, the natural history and rates of progression, risk factors of diagnosis (clinical, imaging and genetic), and management strategies 3).
MEDLINE and Embase were systematically searched (CRD42021281462) for primary research reporting on histological findings of DCM in the human cadaveric spinal cord tissue. Data were extracted using a piloted proforma. The risk of bias was assessed using Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tools. Findings were compared to a systematic review of animal models (Ahkter et al. 2020 Front Neurosci 14).
The search yielded 4127 unique records. After the abstract and full-text screening, 19 were included in the final analysis, reporting on 150 autopsies (71% male) with an average age at death of 67.3 years. All findings were based on hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining. The most commonly reported grey matter findings included neuronal loss and cavity formation. The most commonly reported white matter finding was demyelination. Axon loss, gliosis, necrosis, and Schwann cell proliferation were also reported. Findings were consistent amongst cervical spondylotic myelopathy and ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. Cavitation was notably more prevalent in human autopsies compared to animal models.
Few human spinal cord tissue studies have been performed. Neuronal loss, demyelination and cavitation were common findings. Investigating the biological basis of DCM is a critical research priority. Human spinal cord specimen may be an underutilized but complementary approach 4).
Randomized, controlled trials
A National Institutes of Health-funded (1R13AR065834-01) investigator meeting was held before the initiation of the trial to bring multiple stakeholders together to finalize the study protocol. Study investigators, coordinators, and major stakeholders were able to attend and discuss strengths of, limitations of, and concerns about the study. The final protocol was approved for funding by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (CE-1304-6173). The trial began enrollment on April 1, 2014 6).