Abstract

Myelopathy literally indicates any pathology of the spinal cord, but the term most commonly is used when the cord pathology results from degenerative disease. Specific names usually are used if the disorder is traumatic (spinal cord injury), infectious (myelitis), or neoplastic (the name of the tumor is used). Cervical myelopathy (CM) may result in symptoms such as clumsiness, loss of dexterity, imbalance or poor coordination; muscle weakness; pain; and, in severe cases, bowel, bladder, or sexual dysfunction. When impairment is rated, if the evaluator finds objective evidence of myelopathy when the individual is at maximum medical improvement, neurological impairment is combined with that for the spine. A detailed and thorough neurologic examination is the current standard for the diagnosis of CM, but diagnosis is challenging in the early stages. Correlation of patient symptoms and imaging studies, both plain radiographs and magnetic resonance imaging scans, is essential for correct diagnosis. When imaging studies are equivocal or insensitive, other studies such as electrodiagnostic testing and cerebrospinal fluid analysis may be considered. When CM is defined as the presence of more than one long-tract sign, spinal cord compression in isolation did not cause myelopathy, and up to 20% of those with cord compression did not exhibit CM.

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