Doctor Explains Dangers of Cervical Myelopathy

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PANAMA CITY A local neurosurgeon is raising awareness for a degenerative condition that can lead to paralysis.

It's called Cervical Myelopathy and it's the compression of discs in your spinal chord.

But doctors say it can be treated.

This is more than just a handshake for Dr. Guy York and his neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Wolff III.

It's a success story.

Four months ago, york began feeling sharp pains in his shoulder.

He thought it was the result of an earlier skiing accident.

But when he went to the doctor...

Cervical Myelopathy Patient Dr. Guy York says, "He looked at me and he said you gotta go to a spinal surgeon right now."

That's when he was diagnosed with cervical Myelopathy.

Myelopathy is the result of a compressed disc in the spine.

Local Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Wolff III says, "Dropping things, that's the number one complaint. They reach for the coffee cup and it kind of falls out of their hand. Cervical Myelopathy tends to cause weakness from the level of the compression down, and the thing about Myelopathy is, people can be fully pain-free and go paralyzed. There are no nerve endings in the spinal chord."

Now in York's case, it was a tumor that was crushing his spinal chord at the c4/5 level and that was what eventually caused paralysis in his right arm.

York describes, "Before I came in here, in that week, I began losing all control of the right hand and the whole right arm, and this whole shoulder area up here."

York underwent surgery a few days later.

Wolff explains the procedure: "We make an incision in the neck, pull the carotid artery to one side, the esophagus to the other, and under the microscope, take the disc out."

York says he began seeing an immediate difference as soon as he regained consciousness, but that's not the case with all Myelopathy patients.

Dr. Wolff explains, "We consider and operation successful if we just keep the patient from getting worse. About the best we can hope for is to rewind the clock six months."

Myelopathy is a degenerative condition that gets worse with age.

Dr. Wolff is urging anyone experience stumbling, falling, or dropping things to immediately get checked.

Most Myelopathy patients require surgeries between the C-3 and the C-7 discs in the spine.