Purpose: To conduct a systematic review of the literature to determine important clinical predictors of surgical outcome in patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM).
Methods: A literature search was performed using MEDLINE, MEDLINE in Process, EMBASE and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Selected articles were evaluated using a 14-point modified SIGN scale and classified as either poor (<7), good (7-9) or excellent (10-14) quality of evidence. For each study, the association between various clinical factors and surgical outcome, evaluated by the (modified) Japanese Orthopaedic Association scale (mJOA/JOA), Nurick score or other measures, was defined. The results from the EXCELLENT studies were compared to the combined results from the EXCELLENT and GOOD studies which were compared to the results from all the studies.
Results: The initial search yielded 1,677 citations. Ninety-one of these articles, including three translated from Japanese, met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were graded. Of these, 16 were excellent, 38 were good and 37 were poor quality. Based on the excellent studies alone, a longer duration of symptoms was associated with a poorer outcome evaluated on both the mJOA/JOA scale and Nurick score. A more severe baseline score was related with a worse outcome only on the mJOA/JOA scale. Based on the GOOD and EXCELLENT studies, duration of symptoms and baseline severity score were consistent predictors of mJOA/JOA, but not Nurick. Age was an insignificant predictor of outcome on any of the functional outcomes considered.
Conclusion: The most important predictors of outcome were preoperative severity and duration of symptoms. This review also identified many other valuable predictors including signs, symptoms, comorbidities and smoking status.