OBJECT: Although neurological examination is the key step to reaching a correct diagnosis of cervical compressive myelopathy (CCM), the accuracy of diagnosis of the affected spinal level for CCM has not yet been tested. METHODS: The authors conducted a prospective study to elucidate how accurately the affected intervertebral level can be determined and decompressed based on neurological examination. Fifty patients who underwent successful decompressive surgery for cervical myelopathy caused by single-level disc herniation or spondylosis were included in this study (38 men and 12 women, mean age 60 years). Three board-certified spine surgeons participated in establishing the neurological diagnoses. One of the three surgeons made a diagnosis of CCM, and the other two conducted the neurological examination including deep tendon reflex, pinprick response, muscle weakness, and numbness in the hand only, knowing that the patient had CCM, and established the neurological-level diagnosis. A single intervertebral level responsible for patient's symptoms was determined concordantly based on magnetic resonance imaging and myelography findings by two spine surgeons, and this served as the standard. Agreement between neurological and neuroimaging/radiological level diagnoses was determined. The rate of agreement between neurological and neuroimaging diagnosis was 66%. Among the neurological tests, patient-perceived location of numbness in the hands was the most useful for establishing the affected level. For the other three tests the agreement rate was lower than 50% and thus each individual test may not be reliable for diagnosing the affected level. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggested that neurological examination in patients with CCM is moderately accurate and reliable for determining the neurological level of disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas