Relationships between outcomes of conservative treatment and magnetic resonance imaging findings in patients with mild cervical myelopathy caused by soft disc herniations

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2001 Jul 15;26(14):1592-8. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200107150-00021.


Study design: A retrospective follow-up study of conservatively treated patients with mild cervical myelopathy caused by cervical soft disc herniation.

Objective: To investigate the outcome of conservative treatment for patients with mild myelopathy caused by cervical soft disc herniation and to evaluate usefulness of magnetic resonance findings in the prediction of the outcomes.

Summary of background data: Recent studies on conservative treatment for cervical soft disc herniation have focused mainly on radiculopathy, and not on myelopathy.

Methods: Twenty-seven patients with mild cervical myelopathy secondary to cervical soft disc herniation were treated conservatively for more than 6 months by cervical bracing and restriction of daily activities. Of the 27 patients, 17 patients (Group A) underwent conservative treatment only and it was associated with improvement in their neurologic deficits, while the other 10 patients (Group B) ultimately underwent decompression surgery because of neurologic deterioration. Comparisons between the two groups were made in regard to JOA scores, patient satisfaction, and magnetic resonance findings, including location of the disc herniation (focal or diffuse in the sagittal plane, median or paramedian in the axial plane).

Results: The JOA scores were 13.6 +/- 1.6 in Group A and 14.1 +/- 1.6 in Group B before treatment, 14.9 +/- 1.0 and 12.9 +/- 2.1, respectively, at 3 months, and 16.2 +/- 0.8 and 16.0 +/- 1.2, respectively, at the final follow-up. The JOA scores at 3 months were significantly lower in Group B than in Group A. Satisfaction with the results of treatment at the final follow-up was reported by 77% of the patients in Group A and 90% in Group B. Focal-type herniation was present in 47% of the patients in Group A and 70% in Group B, while median-type herniation was diagnosed in 77% in Group A and 30% in Group B. Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging of the patients in Group A showed spontaneous regression of a herniated mass in 10 patients (59%). Diffuse-type herniations were more likely to regress spontaneously than focal-type herniations (78% vs. 37%).

Conclusions: Conservative treatment is an effective treatment option for mild cervical myelopathy caused by cervical soft disc herniation. A good outcome can be expected in patients with a median-type and/or diffuse-type herniation on magnetic resonance imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Braces
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immobilization*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / classification
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / therapy*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome