Cervical spondylotic myelopathy: the clinical phenomenon and the current pathobiology of an increasingly prevalent and devastating disorder

Neuroscientist. 2013 Aug;19(4):409-21. doi: 10.1177/1073858412467377. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a common disorder involving chronic progressive compression of the cervical spinal cord due to degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, or other degenerative pathology. CSM is the most common form of spinal cord impairment and causes functional decline leading to reduced independence and quality of life. Despite a sound understanding of the disease process, clinical presentation and management, a universal definition of CSM and a standardized index of severity are not currently used universally. Work is required to develop a definition and establish clinical predictors of progression to improve management of CSM. Despite advances in decompressive and reconstructive surgery, patients are often left with residual disability. Gaps in knowledge of the pathobiology of CSM have limited therapeutic advances to complement surgery. Although the histopathologic and pathophysiologic similarities between CSM and traumatic spinal cord injury have long been acknowledged, the unique pathomechanisms of CSM remain unexplored. Increased efforts to elucidate CSM pathobiology could lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic targets for human CSM and other spinal cord diseases. Here, the natural history of CSM, epidemiology, clinical presentation, and current methods of clinical management are reported, along with the current state of basic scientific research in the field.

Keywords: cervical spine; cervical spondylotic myelopathy; epidemiology; pathobiology; spinal cord injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Prevalence
  • Spinal Cord Compression / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / etiology*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / therapy
  • Spondylosis / diagnosis*
  • Spondylosis / epidemiology
  • Spondylosis / etiology*
  • Spondylosis / therapy