Background: Patients with signs and/or symptoms of cervical spondylotic myelopathy are frequently encountered in spinal practice. Exact numbers of prevalence or incidence are not known.
Methods: A literature search was performed by an experienced librarian in Pubmed, Embase, and Scopus. After selection of articles based on titles and abstracts, a full text review was performed. The prevalence of people needing surgical treatment was also estimated in a neurosurgical practice with a population adherence of 1.7 million people and a known referral pattern of the neurologists; all patients operated upon because of cervical spondylotic myelopathy between July 2009 and July 2012 were collected and prevalence calculated.
Results: The search of the literature did not reveal any article reporting an incidence or prevalence of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Eighty of 5,992 patients were operated upon because of a cervical spondylotic myelopathy: 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Conclusion: Surprisingly, an extensive search of the literature did not reveal exact data about the incidence or prevalence of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. The prevalence of surgically treated cervical spondylotic myelopathy was estimated as 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. Although the population adherence to the surgical practice is reasonably fixed and referral patterns are known, this estimate will still be too low for various reasons. At best, this estimate is the minimal prevalence of cervical spondylotic myelopathy that has been operated upon. To address the exact incidence or prevalence of cervical spondylotic myelopathy in general or needing surgical treatment, other investigations are warranted.