Beejal Y. Amin MD

Cervical Myelopathy

What is cervical myelopathy?

Cervical myelopathy is a spinal condition that occurs as we age due to a combination of degenerating discs and the development of osteoarthritis in the neck. During the aging process, the body often responds by creating more bone. This bone growth can take up valuable space and compress or squeeze the spinal cord. Cervical myelopathy is a condition that results in a loss of function due to compression of the spinal cord. This is an extremely serious condition that may place patients at risk of neurologic deterioration and should be evaluated by a spine surgeon specializing in the treatment of complex cervical disorders.

What causes cervical myelopathy?

The primary cause of cervical myelopathy stems from the natural aging process that leads to arthritis. The result is cervical disc degeneration that can result in bone spurs, enlargement of the facet joints in the spine, degeneration of the cervical discs and, thickening of the ligaments. Each of these can contribute to narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal cord which leads to cervical myelopathy.

What are the symptoms of cervical myelopathy?

The symptoms of cervical myelopathy may gradually worsen over time. These symptoms include:

  • Clumsiness in the arms, hands or fingers
  • Loss of manual dexterity (and difficulty with fine finger movements)
  • Pain or stiffness in the neck
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands
  • Balance difficulty
  • Loss of control of bowel or bladder

How is cervical myelopathy treated?

Patients with signs and symptoms of cervical myelopathy require evaluation by a spine surgeon. In many instances, patients will be considered for surgical intervention. The goal of surgery is to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and reduce the risk of further neurologic deterioration over time. Based on the patient’s MRI and CAT scan, Dr. Amin will recommend one of the four surgeries to safely and adequately decompress the spinal cord: