To non-neurosurgeons, the title of a course that Dr. Michael Kaiser recently directed may appear to have been assembled from Scrabble tiles: “Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy and Radiculopathy.”
Dr. Kaiser organized this course, recruiting nationally recognized colleagues to help teach, at the annual meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) in Boston this fall. Luckily, his audience was full of people who could jump right into the subject.
For the rest of us, let’s break it down. The first word of his talk, “cervical,” refers to the part of the spine in the neck. Here, a degenerative process called spondylosis can result in damage to the spinal cord called myelopathy. Spondylosis can also result in damage to nerves that exit the spine and cause a condition called radiculopathy.
Diagnosis of these problems can be difficult, as patients may present with a wide variety of signs and symptoms. One patient may be concerned by increasing clumsiness while walking. Another might notice that holding a pen or pencil has become strangely difficult. Another may suffer from unrelenting pain down one arm. Once a correct diagnosis is made, surgery on the affected part of the spine can prevent further nerve and spinal cord damage.
Dr. Kaiser began his 4-hour course in Boston with an in-depth examination of spinal anatomy and problems like spondylosis, myelopathy, and radiculopathy. To the neurosurgeons in attendance, Dr. Kaiser and his course faculty explained symptoms and ways to definitively diagnose each of these conditions. Then, they focused on treatments most appropriate for each case, including well-established procedures as well as state-of-the-art techniques.
In the end, it wasn’t just the neurosurgeons in the room who benefited from Dr. Kaiser’s course. And it wasn’t Scrabble players, either. It was the patients who the course’s attendees will now be better-equipped to help.