BACKGROUND:
Surgical strategy for multilevel cervical myelopathy resulting from cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) or ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) still remains controversial. There are still questions about the relative benefit and safety of direct decompression by anterior corpectomy (CORP) versus indirect decompression by posterior laminoplasty (LAMP).

OBJECTIVE:
To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the results of anterior CORP compared with posterior LAMP for patients with multilevel cervical myelopathy.

METHODS:
Systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies comparing anterior CORP with posterior LAMP for the treatment of multilevel cervical myelopathy due to CSM or OPLL from 1990 to December 2012. An extensive search of literature was performed in Pubmed, Embase, and the Cochrane library. The quality of the studies was assessed according to GRADE. The following outcome measures were extracted: pre- and postoperative Japanese orthopedic association (JOA) score, neurological recovery rate (RR), surgical complications, reoperation rate, operation time and blood loss. Two reviewers independently assessed each study for quality and extracted data. Subgroup analysis was conducted according to the mean number of surgical segments.

RESULTS:
A total of 12 studies were included in this review, all of which were prospective or retrospective cohort studies with relatively low quality. The results indicated that the mean JOA score system for cervical myelopathy and the neurological RR in the CORP group were superior to those in the LAMP group when the mean surgical segments were < 3, but were similar between the two groups in the case of the mean surgical segments equal to 3 or more. There was no statistical difference in the surgical complication rate between the two groups when the mean surgical segments < 3, but were significantly higher incidences of surgical complications and complication-related reoperation in the CORP group compared with the LAMP group in the case of the mean surgical segments equal to 3 or more. Besides, the operation time in the CORP group was longer than that in the LAMP group, and the average blood loss was significantly more in the CORP group compared with the LAMP group.

CONCLUSION:
Based on the results above, anterior CORP and fusion is recommended for the treatment of multilevel cervical myelopathy when the involved surgical segments were < 3. Given the higher rates of surgical complications and complication-related reoperation and the higher surgical trauma associated with multilevel CORP, however, it is suggested that posterior LAMP may be the preferred method of treatment for multilevel cervical myelopathy when the involved surgical segments were equal to 3 or more. In addition, taking the limitations of this study into consideration, it was still not appropriate to draw a strong conclusion claiming superiority for CORP or LAMP. A well-designed, prospective, randomized controlled trial is necessary to provide objective data on the clinical results of both procedures.