Surgery for cervical spinal cord compression in patients with multiple sclerosis

Neurosurgery. 2000 Sep;47(3):637-42; discussion 642-3. doi: 10.1097/00006123-200009000-00022.


Objective: The goal of this study was to investigate the clinical and paraclinical features, treatment, and outcomes of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and coexisting spinal cord compression secondary to either cervical spondylosis or cervical disc disease. Patients with MS commonly experience neurological disabilities that present as myelopathy associated with bladder dysfunction. For some patients with MS, however, this neurological deterioration may result from coexisting spinal cord compression attributable to either spondylosis or a herniated disc. Overlapping symptoms of the two conditions do not allow clear clinical determination of the underlying cause of worsening.

Methods: Patients with MS who underwent cervical decompression surgery were selected. Medical records were retrospectively reviewed, to collect data on their pre- and postoperative clinical courses.

Results: Nine women and five men with definite MS were selected for cervical decompression surgery to treat neurological deterioration considered to be at least partially attributable to spinal cord compression. The most common symptoms were progressive myelopathy (n = 13), neck pain (n = 11), and cervical radiculopathy (n = 10). Bladder dysfunction was notably absent among these patients with MS with moderate disabilities. Surgical intervention was frequently delayed because the neurological deterioration was initially thought to be attributable to MS. The majority of patients experienced either improvement or stabilization of their preoperative symptoms in the immediate postoperative period; three subjects (21%) maintained this improvement after a mean follow-up period of 3.8 years. No MS relapses, permanent neurological worsening, or serious complications resulting from surgery or general anesthesia were noted.

Conclusion: Carefully selected patients with MS and cervical spinal cord compression secondary to either spondylosis or disc disease may benefit from surgical decompression, with minimal associated morbidity. Clinical features (especially neck pain and cervical radiculopathy) and magnetic resonance imaging may assist clinicians in differentiating between the two conditions and may guide appropriate treatment without undue delay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery
  • Decompression, Surgical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / surgery*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / surgery*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Compression / surgery*