The natural history of cervical spondylotic myelopathy is frequently one of slow, progressive neurological deterioration. The operative treatment for patients with moderate to severe involvement is decompression of the spinal cord. Laminectomy has been a traditional approach and laminoplasty has developed as an attractive alternative. The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the outcomes of these two procedures in similar groups of patients at a five year average follow-up.
A consecutive series of twenty patients who underwent open-door laminoplasty for multi-level cervical spondylotic myelopathy or radiculopathy was compared to a similar group of 22 matched patients who underwent multi-level laminectomies. Patients were similar in age, gender, number of operative levels, and length of follow-up. At the latest examination, each patient underwent a comprehensive neurological evaluation. A modification of the Nurick classification was used to assess the degree of myelopathy. Radiographs at latest follow-up were assessed for instability, and measurements of the space-available-for-the-cord and Pavlov ratio were made at involved levels.
Myelopathy, as determined by our modified Nurick scale, improved from a preoperative average of 2.44 to 1.48 in laminoplasty patients and from an average of 3.09 to 2.50 in laminectomy patients. Pain improved 57 percent and 8 percent in laminoplasty and laminectomy groups, respectively. Subjective neck stiffness was not significantly different based on the numbers available, although laminoplasty patients demonstrated some loss of range of motion on examination. The only variable that predicted the postoperative degree of myelopathy in both groups was the preoperative degree of myelopathy.
Laminectomy and laminoplasty patients demonstrated improvements in gait, strength, sensation, pain, and degree of myelopathy. Laminoplasty was associated with fewer late complications. Based on this analysis, we believe that laminoplasty is an effective alternative to laminectomy in patients with multi-level cervical spondylotic myelopathy or radiculopathy.