Factors affecting the outcome of surgical versus nonsurgical treatment of cervical radiculopathy – a randomized, controlled study.

Understanding anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) is an important prerequesite which affects patient outcomes.  This prospective RCT set out with the aims to analyze the factors which may influence the outcome of ACDF followed by physiotherapy or just physiotherapy alone in the treatment of cervical radiculopathy. This was achieved through analysing the outcomes of sixty patients and looking for outcome measures at one year such as; sex, age, duration of pain, pain intensity, disability (Neck Disability Index, NDI), patient expectations of treatment, anxiety due to neck/arm pain, distress (Distress And Risk Assessment Method, DRAM), self efficacy (Self Efficacy Scale, SES) health status (EQ-5D) and MRI findings were collected. A multivariate analysis was performed to find treatment effect modifiers affecting the outcome regarding arm/ neck pain intensity and NDI. Factors that significantly altered the treatment effect between treatment groups in favor of surgery were: duration of neck pain < 12 months (p = 0.007), duration of arm pain < 12 months (p = 0.01) and female sex (p = 0.007) (outcome: arm pain), low EQ-5D index (outcome: neck pain, p = 0.02), high levels of anxiety due to neck/arm pain (outcome: neck pain, p = 0.02 and NDI, p = 0.02), low SES score (p = 0.05) and high DRAM score (p = 0.04). (outcome: NDI). No factors were found to be associated with better outcome with physiotherapy alone. 

In this prospective, randomized study of patients with cervical radiculopathy, short duration of pain, female sex, low health quality, high levels of anxiety due to neck/arm pain, low self efficacy and a high level of distress before treatment were associated with better outcome from surgery. No factors were found to be associated with better outcome from physiotherapy alone.