Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy: A Practical Approach to Diagnosis

Lindsay Tetreault, Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan, Davies Benjamin Davies, Laura Nanna-Lohkamp, Philip Garwood, Allan R. Martin, Jefferson R. Wilson, James S. Harrop, James D. Guest, Brian K. Kwon, James Milligan, Alberto Martinez Arizala, Mark R. Kotter, Michael G. Fehlings

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Study Design: Narrative Review. Objectives: The objective of this review is to provide a stepwise approach to the assessment of patients with potential symptoms of degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM). Methods: N/A Results: DCM is an overarching term used to describe progressive compression of the cervical spinal cord by age-related changes to the spinal axis. These alterations to normal anatomy narrow the spinal canal, reduce the space available for the spinal cord, and may ultimately compress the ascending and descending neural tracts. Patients with DCM present with a wide range of symptoms that can significantly impact quality of life, including bilateral hand numbness and paresthesia, gait impairment, motor weakness of the upper and lower extremities, and bladder and bowel dysfunction. Unfortunately, DCM is often misdiagnosed, resulting in delayed assessment and management by the appropriate specialist. The proper evaluation of a patient with suspected DCM includes obtaining a detailed patient history, conducting a comprehensive neurological examination, and ordering appropriate tests to rule in or out other diagnoses. Conclusion: This review summarizes a stepwise approach to the diagnosis of patients with DCM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cervical spondylotic myelopathy
  • degenerative cervical myelopathy
  • diagnosis
  • ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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