Myelopathy describes any neurologic deficit related to the spinal cord. When due to trauma, it is known as (acute) spinal cord injury. When inflammatory, it is known as myelitis. Disease that is vascular in nature is known as vascular myelopathy.
The most common form of myelopathy in human, cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM), is caused by arthritic changes (spondylosis) of the cervical spine, which result in narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) ultimately causing compression of the spinal cord.
Clinical signs and symptoms depend on which spinal cord level (cervical, thoracic or lumbar) is affected and the extent (anterior, posterior or lateral) of the pathology.
Myelopathy is primarily diagnosed by clinical examination. Because the term myelopathy describes a clinical syndrome that can be caused by many pathologies the differential diagnosis of myelopathy is extensive. In some cases the onset of myelopathy is rapid, in others, such as CSM, the course may be insidious with symptoms developing slowly over a period of months.