The Effect of Surgical Decompression on Functional Balance Testing in Patients With Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Clin Spine Surg. 2019 Nov;32(9):369-376. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000889.


Study design: A prospective cohort study.

Objective: Quantify the extent of change in dynamic balance and stability in a group of patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) after cervical decompression surgery and to compare them with matched healthy controls.

Summary of background data: CSM is a naturally progressive degenerative condition that commonly results in loss of fine motor control in the hands and upper extremities and in gait imbalance. Whereas this was previously thought of as an irreversible condition, more recent studies are demonstrating postoperative improvements in balance and stability.

Materials and methods: Thirty subjects with symptomatic CSM and 25 matched asymptomatic controls between the ages of 45 and 75 years underwent functional balance testing using a 3D motion capture system to gather kinematic and spatiotemporal parameters. CSM subjects underwent testing 1 week before surgery and again 3 months postoperatively.

Results: Patients with CSM exhibited markedly diminished balance as indicated by increased sway on a Romberg test and requiring significantly more time and a wider stance to complete tandem gait tests. The surgical intervention resulted in improved balance at the 3-month postoperative time point; however, kinematic and spatiotemporal parameters did not completely normalize to the levels observed in asymptomatic controls.

Conclusions: Human motion video capture can be used to robustly quantify balance parameters in the setting of CSM. Compared with healthy controls, such patients exhibited increased standing sway and poorer performance on a tandem gait task. The surgical intervention resulted in significant improvement in many of the measures of functional balance, but overall profiles had not completely returned to normal when measured 3 months after surgery. These data reinforce the importance of operative intervention in the treatment of symptomatic CSM with the goal of halting disease progress but the expectation that balance may actually improve postoperatively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Decompression, Surgical*
  • Female
  • Gait Analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spondylosis / physiopathology*
  • Spondylosis / surgery*
  • Time and Motion Studies