Mild diabetes is not a contraindication for surgical decompression in cervical spondylotic myelopathy: results of the AOSpine North America multicenter prospective study (CSM).


Background context

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a chronic spinal cord disease and can lead to progressive or stepwise neurologic decline. Several factors may influence this process, including extent of spinal cord compression, duration of symptoms, and medical comorbidities. Diabetes is a systemic disease that can impact multiple organ systems, including the central and peripheral nervous systems. There has been little information regarding the effect of diabetes on patients with coexistent CSM.


To provide empirical data regarding the effect of diabetes on treatment outcomes in patients who underwent surgical decompression for coexistent CSM.

Study design/setting

Large prospective multicenter cohort study of patients with and without diabetes who underwent decompressive surgery for CSM.

Patient sample

Two hundred thirty-six patients without and 42 patients with diabetes were enrolled. Of these, 37 were mild cases and five were moderate cases. Four required insulin. There were no severe cases associated with end-organ damage.

Outcome measures

Self-report measures include Neck Disability Index and version 2 of 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36v2), and functional measures include modified Japanese Orthopedic Association (mJOA) score and Nurick grade.


We compared presurgery symptoms and treatment outcomes between patients with and without diabetes using univariate and multivariate models, adjusting for demographics and comorbidities.


Diabetic patients were older, less likely to smoke, and more likely to be on social security disability insurance. Patients with diabetes presented with a worse Nurick grade, but there were no differences in mJOA and SF-36v2 at presentation. Overall, there was a significant improvement in all outcome parameters at 12 and 24 months. There was no difference in the level of improvement between the patients with and without diabetes, except in the SF-36v2 Physical Functioning, in which diabetic patients experienced significantly less improvement. There were no differences in surgical complication rates between diabetic patients and nondiabetic patients.


Except for a worse Nurick grade, diabetes does not seem to affect severity of symptoms at presentation for surgery. More importantly, with the exception of the SF-36v2 Physical Functioning scores, outcomes of surgical treatment are similar in patients with diabetes and without diabetes. Surgical decompression is effective and should be offered to patients with diabetes who have symptomatic CSM and are appropriate surgical candidates.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Arnold, Paul M, Michael G Fehlings, Branko Kopjar, Sangwook Tim Yoon, Eric M Massicotte, Alexander R Vaccaro, Darrel S Brodke, Christopher I Shaffrey, et al. (2014). Mild diabetes is not a contraindication for surgical decompression in cervical spondylotic myelopathy: results of the AOSpine North America multicenter prospective study (CSM). The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society, 14(1). pp. 65–72. 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.06.016 Retrieved from

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