Postoperative radiculopathy is a complication of posterior cervical decompression associated with tethering of the nerve root. We reviewed retrospectively 287 consecutive patients with cervical compression myelopathy who had been treated by multilevel cervical laminectomy and identified 37 (12.9%) with postoperative radiculopathy. There were 27 men and ten women with a mean age of 56 years at the time of operation. The diagnosis was either cervical spondylosis (25 patients) or ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (12 patients). Radiculopathy was observed from four hours to six days after surgery. The most frequent pattern of paralysis was involvement of the C5 and C6 roots of the motor-dominant type. The mean time for recovery was 5.4 months (two weeks to three years). The results at follow-up showed that the rate of motor recovery was negatively related to the duration of complete recovery of postoperative radiculopathy (gamma=-0.832, p < 0.01) and that patients with spondylotic myelopathy had a significantly better rate of clinical recovery than those with ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (t=2.960, p < 0.01). Postoperative radiculopathy may be prevented by carrying out an anterior decompression in conjunction with spinal fusion, which will achieve stabilisation and directly remove compression of the cord at multiple levels.