Comparison of the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score and modified JOA (mJOA) score for the assessment of cervical myelopathy: a multicenter observational study

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 2;10(4):e0123022. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123022. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: The Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score is widely used to assess the severity of clinical symptoms in patients with cervical compressive myelopathy, particularly in East Asian countries. In contrast, modified versions of the JOA score are currently accepted as the standard tool for assessment in Western countries. The objective of the present study is to compare these scales and clarify their differences and interchangeability and verify their validity by comparing them to other outcome measures.

Materials and methods: Five institutions participated in this prospective multicenter observational study. The JOA and modified JOA (mJOA) proposed by Benzel were recorded preoperatively and at three months postoperatively in patients with cervical compressive myelopathy who underwent decompression surgery. Patient reported outcome (PRO) measures, including Japanese Orthopaedic Association Cervical Myelopathy Evaluation Questionnaire (JOACMEQ), the Short Form-12 (SF-12) and the Neck Disability Index (NDI), were also recorded. The preoperative JOA score and mJOA score were compared to each other and the PRO values. A Bland-Altman analysis was performed to investigate their limits of agreement.

Results: A total of ninety-two patients were included. The correlation coefficient (Spearman's rho) between the JOA and mJOA was 0.87. In contrast, the correlations between JOA/mJOA and the other PRO values were moderate (|rho| = 0.03 - 0.51). The correlation coefficient of the recovery rate between the JOA and mJOA was 0.75. The Bland-Altman analyses showed that limits of agreement were 3.6 to -1.2 for the total score, and 55.1% to -68.8% for the recovery rates.

Conclusions: In the present study, the JOA score and the mJOA score showed good correlation with each other in terms of their total scores and recovery rates. Previous studies using the JOA can be interpreted based on the mJOA; however it is not ideal to use them interchangeably. The validity of both scores was demonstrated by comparing these values to the PRO values.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Decompression, Surgical
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedics / methods
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / surgery*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.