(HealthDay News) – Surgery with physical therapy results in a more rapid improvement during the first postoperative year for patients with cervical radiculopathy, compared to physical therapy alone, but similar outcomes are seen at two years, according to a study published in the Sept. 15 issue of Spine.

Markus Engquist, MD, from Ryhov Hospital in Jönköping, Sweden, and colleagues randomized 63 patients with cervical radiculopathy to surgery (anterior cervical decompression and fusion) with postoperative physical therapy (31 patients) or physical therapy alone (32 patients).

The researchers observed no significant difference in Neck Disability Index between the groups, nor for arm pain intensity. The surgical group had the benefit in analysis for neck pain intensity. Symptoms were rated as “better/much better” by 87% of surgical patients at the 12-month follow-up, compared with 62% in the non-surgical group, and at 24 months, rates were 81% and 69%, respectively; the difference was only considered significant at the 12-month mark. Compared to baseline, there was a significant reduction in Neck Disability Index, neck pain, and arm pain in both groups.

“A significantly better result was seen after anterior cervical decompression and fusion regarding neck pain and global assessment at one year but only for neck pain regarding the whole follow-up period,” Engquist and colleagues conclude.

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