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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery

Volume 120, May 2014, Pages 68-72.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2014.02.019. Copyright © Elsevier Inc.


Background: Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is typically encountered in the elderly population. Significant inconsistencies currently exist regarding the definition of the disorder, the true incidence of CSM in younger populations, and the established diagnostic criteria.

Objective: To highlight the lack of standardization in the definition and diagnosis of CSM.

Methods: A PubMed literature search was conducted spanning the years 2001 to 2011. The search was limited by the following terms: 1) English language, 2) Adults (19-44 years old), and 3) “cervical spondylotic myelopathy.” Each article was reviewed to determine if the presence of the definition of CSM existed in the article. The clinical characteristics used to make the diagnosis of CSM were recorded for each article. Cochran’s Q statistic was used to determine whether some clinical characteristics were more frequently used than others.

Results: 93 papers were reviewed in detail and 16 case reports, reviews, and articles concerning less than three patients were excluded, resulting in 77 articles in the final analysis. The most common clinical definitions were gait disturbance (22/77 articles (28.6%)), upper limb paresthesias or sensory disturbance (21/77 (27.3%)), and clumsy hands (15/77 (19.5%)). Hyperreflexia, spasticity, and pathologically increased reflexes were identified as diagnostic criteria in a minority of patients.

Conclusion: The literature employs a wide range of neurologic signs and symptoms to make the diagnosis of CSM, with a majority of studies failing to rely on strict diagnostic criteria. The clinician should not discount CSM as an explanation for the aforementioned findings, as it is well-reported in the literature among the ages 18-44.