Study Design. Systematic review.
Objective. The primary objectives of this review were to compare the effectiveness and safety of various anterior cervical decompressive and reconstructive procedures for diffuse or multifocal cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). An additional objective was to describe the most common ancillary stabilization techniques used with the different anterior decompressive procedures.
Summary of Background Data. Surgical management of CSM provides for neurological recovery and disease stabilization in a cost-effective way. Although both retrospective and prospective data support management of CSM by anterior cervical decompression and fusion, the choice decision between various anterior surgical options remains unclear.
Methods. We conducted a systematic search in MEDLINE and the Cochrane Collaboration Library for human studies in the English-language literature published through September 2012. We included studies comparing multiple discectomies with single or multiple corpectomy, multiple discectomies with discectomy-corpectomy hybrid, and multiple corpectomies with discectomy-corpectomy hybrid, comparing effectiveness and safety outcomes of each procedure, and defining the ancillary stabilization techniques used. Exclusion criteria included patients with degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease without CSM, single-level CSM, ossified posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL), spinal tumor, concomitant infection, and ankylozing spondylitis. Case series, case reports, data not reported separately for each comparison group, or studies that consisted of an N less than 10 for either comparison group were excluded. The evidence strength was rated using the GRADE (Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) criteria.
Results. Of the 49 citations identified from our search, 10 studies were initially found suitable for inclusion. Patients undergoing any of the 3 procedures generally experienced improvements in clinical outcomes (neck disability index, Japanese Orthopaedic Association score, and Visual Analogue Scale score for pain) as well as overall sagittal alignment, with minimal perioperative morbidity. There is moderate evidence supporting selection of multiple discectomies compared with corpectomy or discectomy-corpectomy hybrid procedures with regard to superior clinical outcomes and postoperative sagittal alignment. Furthermore, if more extensive operation is needed, there is evidence to support the selection of discectomy-corpectomy hybrid procedures compared with multiple corpectomies if it is technically feasible to accomplish the requisite decompression. The multiple discectomies approach also may have a lower incidence of C5 palsy than corpectomy or discectomy-corpectomy hybrid approaches.
Conclusion. All 3 operative approaches are effective strategies for the anterior surgical management of CSM. When the patient pathoanatomy permits, selection of multiple discectomies is favored compared with corpectomy or discectomy-corpectomy hybrid approaches.
Evidence-Based Clinical Recommendations.
Recommendation 1. When pathoanatomically appropriate with minimal retrovertebral disease, we recommend the selection of multiple discectomy over corpectomy or discectomy-corpectomy hybrid procedures.
Overall Strength of Evidence. Low
Strength of Recommendation. Strong
Recommendation 2. When retrovertebral disease is significant, we recommend, when possible, that discectomy-corpectomy hybrid procedures be performed instead of multiple corpectomies.
Overall Strength of Evidence. Moderate
Strength of Recommendation. Strong
Summary Statements. There is no evidence to guide choice of ancillary external immobilization techniques following multilevel anterior decompression and fusion procedures for CSM.