Does the Neurological Examination Correlate with Patient-Perceived Outcomes in Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy?
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© 2019 Elsevier Inc. Background: In patients with neurological disorders, a divergence can exist between patients' perceptions regarding the outcomes and the objective neurological findings. Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM), a prevalent condition characterized by progressive compression of the cervical spinal cord, can produce debilitating symptoms and profound neurological findings. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether the physician-derived neurological examination findings, as recorded by American Spine Injury Association (ASIA) summary score, correlated with the patient-derived outcome measures for DCM. Methods: A total of 78 patients underwent surgical management of DCM with completion of preoperative and 6-month follow-up assessments. Surgical management consisted of either anterior or posterior cervical decompression. All patients underwent a neurological evaluation, including an ASIA assessment before surgery and 6 months after surgery, and completed the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA), neck disability index (NDI), and Short-Form 36-item (SF-36) scales pre- and postoperatively to measure both disease-specific and general perceived outcomes. Results: The objective physician-derived neurological testing (ASIA) did not correlate with the patient-derived scales (mJOA, NDI, and SF-36) pre- or postoperatively. Patients reported significant improvements (P < 0.001) at 6 months postoperatively in extremity functioning (mJOA), neck pain (NDI), overall physical health (SF-36), and objective strength and sensory functioning (ASIA). All patient-perceived outcome measures correlated with each other pre- and postoperatively (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Objective scoring of postoperative neurological function did not correlate with patient-perceived outcomes before and after surgery for DCM. Traditional testing of motor and sensory function as part of the neurological assessment may not be sensitive enough to assess the scope of neurological changes experienced by patients with DCM.