Mr James Langdon

BSc (Hons) MB BS MRCS (Eng) FRCS (Orth) Consultant Orthopaedic Spinal Surgeon

Cervical Myelopathy

A disc prolapse generally causes compression of a nerve causing cervical radiculopathy (arm pain, numbness, pins and needles, and weakness). However, a cervical disc prolapse can also compress the spinal cord in the neck. This can also cause numbness, pins and needles, and weakness in your hands. It can result in a loss of fine hand function making you clumsy with a tendency to drop things. Some patients notice a change in the way that they walk, and experience a loss of bladder and bowel control.  This is called cervical myelopathy. Left untreated cervical myelopathy can lead to permanent nerve damage resulting in irreversible disability.

In cases of myelopathy an operation should be considered as soon as possible. Non-operative treatment is not appropriate for patients with cervical myelopathy. The main aim of surgery is to prevent deterioration, although symptoms often improve to some degree, in particular the stiffness of hand and walking difficulties. In some cases of myelopathy patients continue to deteriorate despite successful surgery due to the damage that has already been done. Unfortunately, the recovery of the spinal cord is often slow and unpredictable.