Repository logo

The Pathophysiology of Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy and the Physiology of Recovery Following Decompression.

Published version

Change log


Akter, Farhana 
Yu, Xinming 
Qin, Xingping 
Yao, Shun 
Nikrouz, Parisa 


Background: Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM), also known as cervical spondylotic myelopathy is the leading cause of spinal cord compression in adults. The mainstay of treatment is surgical decompression, which leads to partial recovery of symptoms, however, long term prognosis of the condition remains poor. Despite advances in treatment methods, the underlying pathobiology is not well-known. A better understanding of the disease is therefore required for the development of treatments to improve outcomes following surgery. Objective: To systematically evaluate the pathophysiology of DCM and the mechanism underlying recovery following decompression. Methods: A total of 13,808 published articles were identified in our systematic search of electronic databases (PUBMED, WEB OF SCIENCE). A total of 51 studies investigating the secondary injury mechanisms of DCM or physiology of recovery in animal models of disease underwent comprehensive review. Results: Forty-seven studies addressed the pathophysiology of DCM. Majority of the studies demonstrated evidence of neuronal loss following spinal cord compression. A number of studies provided further details of structural changes in neurons such as myelin damage and axon degeneration. The mechanisms of injury to cells included direct apoptosis and increased inflammation. Only four papers investigated the pathobiological changes that occur in spinal cords following decompression. One study demonstrated evidence of axonal plasticity following decompressive surgery. Another study demonstrated ischaemic-reperfusion injury following decompression, however this phenomenon was worse when decompression was delayed. Conclusions: In preclinical studies, the pathophysiology of DCM has been poorly studied and a number of questions remain unanswered. The physiological changes seen in the decompressed spinal cord has not been widely investigated and it is paramount that researchers investigate the decompressed spinal cord further to enable the development of therapeutic tools, to enhance recovery following surgery.



apoptosis, degeneration, neuronal loss, pathogenesis, spine

Journal Title

Front Neurosci

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Frontiers Media SA
Department of Health (via National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)) (CS-2015-15-023)