Myelopathy is a disease of the spinal cord. By compressing the spinal cord, the condition prevents it from transmitting neural signals as it normally would. While this condition can be treated and managed, it requires oversight from the best spinal surgeons, like those at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS), to achieve positive outcomes. Learn more about this condition below to better understand your treatment options.
What Causes Myelopathy?
Myelopathy can be caused by a variety of different factors, including trauma. During a car accident, fall, sports injury or other accident, a spinal cord injury may occur—which can cause myelopathy. It can also be caused by:
- Viral processes
- Inflammatory or autoimmune disorders
- Intervertebral disc herniation
- Natural aging process
What are the Symptoms?
Myelopathy’s symptoms vary based on the areas of the spinal cord that are affected. Patients may experience cervical (neck), thoracic (middle region of the spine) or lumbar (lumbar spine) myelopathy, and each variety can present in distinctive ways. However, some common symptoms include:
- Numbness of the hands
- Weakness of the arms and hands
- Leg stiffness
- Loss of balance and hand-eye coordination
- Decreased strength
- Urinary urgency
These symptoms can make it difficult for people to perform everyday tasks, like working, driving, preparing food and walking. Because of this, many patients choose to pursue surgery and other treatment options to help restore normal functioning.
How is it Treated?
Once the location of the compression is identified, decompression surgery is required. While surgery can stop symptoms from getting worse, it doesn’t always improve a patient’s condition. If they do elect to have the surgery, several different procedures are used at ANS. These include:
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
- Anterior cervical corpectomy
- Cervical laminectomy
- Cervical laminectomy and fusion
- Cervical laminoplasty
The surgeon will decide which approach to take based on the overall alignment of the cervical spine, where the compression is located along the spinal cord and many other factors. In some cases, combined procedures may be used to achieve the best results.
For patients who also have radiculopathy, a pinched nerve in the spine, physical therapy exercises are often recommended to help relieve symptoms.