What is Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical Spondylosis is the most common disorder of the cervical spine. It is caused by degenerative changes in the vertebrae and intervertebral discs that occur as a result of ageing or due to injury or rheumatoid disease. In advanced disease this may lead to cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) which results from compression of the spinal cord.

Statistics on Cervical Spondylosis

CSM is probably the most common spinal cord disorder in people over 55 years of age in the world. As the number of elderly people increases, the incidence of CSM will probably also increase.

Risk Factors for Cervical Spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis appears to be primarily a disease of aging. Characteristic changes on spinal x-rays are present in the majority of people aged over 70 years.

Progression of Cervical Spondylosis

A number of factors are responsible for the development of the signs and symptoms of cervical spondylosis:

  • Osteophytes (bony growths)
  • A narrowed spinal canal present since birth
  • Degeneration of the intervertebral discs
  • Changes in the spinal cord and nerves due to insufficient blood supply.


How is Cervical Spondylosis Diagnosed?

Cervical SpondylosisSpinal x-rays may show narrowing of the disc spaces and spinal canal. Bony outgrowths (osteophytes) may be noted at the corners of the vertebrae. This is evident in the x-ray on the right, notice the narrowing of the disc space and the growth upon the spinal cord. MRI is recommended to assess the extent of the spondylosis and to help exclude other possible causes for the symptoms. A CT may also be useful as it gives better visualisation of the bony structures.

Prognosis of Cervical Spondylosis

A variety of factors determine success after surgery. Factors that may be suggestive of a less satisfactory outcome include: severe neurological symptoms before surgery, evidence of spinal cord shrinkage on MRI, and severe cord compression seen on x-rays.