Does Age Play a Role in DCM?

Hey, Jamie here! I’m a medical student in my 5th year at Cambridge University and the new President of the Student Society

I’ve personally been involved in Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM) research for over a year, and I have assembled a committee of like-minded students and trainee doctors. We aim to improve the lives of those living with myelopathy through activities including research, education and raising awareness amongst the doctors of tomorrow.

We hope to exhibit some fascinating research conducted by our network of students, beginning with Ben!

Jamie Brannigan
President of Student Society 

The Effect of Ageing on Presentation, Management and Outcomes in Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy: A Systematic Review

Summary by Ben Grodzinski and Oliver Mowforth

We recently conducted a study looking at the role of age in DCM.

Why was this study conducted?

DCM arises when degenerative changes of the spine compress the spinal cord in the neck. These degenerative changes are part of the ageing process of the body, and so might be expected to be more common in people who are older. However, up until now, there had been no study summarising effect of age on all aspects of DCM – from initial symptoms, to diagnosis, treatment and long-term prognosis. 

How was the study conducted?

We carried out a systematic review. This is a type of study that compiles findings from many previous studies all looking at the same topic. The advantage of doing this is that it gives a representative picture by capturing all previous research in this area.  

We asked three key questions:

  1. Do older people have more severe DCM? 
  2. Are older people offered different treatment?
  3. Does treatment prognosis differ between older and younger people?
What was discovered?

We found that older people do have more severe DCM when they seek medical attention, with worse symptoms and worse underlying degenerative changes. Older people are just as likely to need surgery and this surgery is likely to be more extensive. After surgery, older people still have more severe DCM, but the improvement from before to after surgery is similar to younger people, suggesting that older patients do still benefit from surgery.

Why is this important?

This was the first study to collect data on the impact of age on all aspects of DCM. Importantly, it showed that older patients are still helped by surgery. This offers hope to older people with DCM.

Read the full study