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Currently submitted to: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Date Submitted: Mar 19, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Mar 19, 2020 - May 14, 2020
(currently open for review)

Warning: This is an author submission that is not peer-reviewed or edited. Preprints - unless they show as "accepted" - should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information.

Prevailing outcome themes reported by people with degenerative cervical myelopathy: findings from a semi-structured interview

  • Danyal Zaman Khan; 
  • Siobhan Mairead Fitzpatrick; 
  • Bryn Hilton; 
  • Angus G.K. McNair; 
  • Ellen Sarewitz; 
  • Benjamin Marshall Davies; 
  • Mark R.N. Kotter; 



Degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) arises when arthritic changes of the cervical spine cause compression and a progressive injury to the spinal cord. It is common and potentially disabling. People with DCM (PwCM) to have amongst the lowest quality of life scores (SF-36) of chronic disease, although the drivers for this are not entirely understood. DCM research faces a number of challenges, including the heterogenous reporting of study data. The AO Spine RECODE-DCM project is an international consensus process that aims improve research efficiency through formation of a core outcome set (COS). A key part of COS development process is organizing outcomes into domains which represent key aspects of the disease.


To facilitate this, we sought to qualitatively explore the context and impact of patient reported outcomes in DCM on people with DCM (PwCM) and their supporters. The aim was to improve understanding of patient perspective and assist the organisation of outcomes into domains for the consensus process.


A single focus group was hosted by, a charity and support group for PwCM. The 40 minute session was audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data was familiarized and 2 authors performed data coding independently. Codes were grouped into themes and a thematic analysis was performed guided by Braun & Clarke’s six-phase approach. The themes were subsequently reviewed with an independent PwCM stakeholder (ES), assisting in the process of capturing the true context and importance of themes.


Five PwCM (three men and two women) and three supporters (all women) participated. The average PwCM age was 53 and the median mJOA was 11 (±IQR 2), indicating these PwCM had moderate to severe DCM. 54 codes were grouped into 10 themes that captured the impact of DCM on PwCM and their supporters. These themes included: acceptance of symptoms, anticipatory anxiety, coping mechanisms/resilience, feelings of helplessness, financial consequences, lack of recognition, mental health impact, loss of life control, social reclusiveness/isolation and social stigma


This is the first study to undertake qualitative analysis of PwCM perspectives. It has highlighted a number of prevailing themes currently unmeasured in clinical research or care. The determinants of low quality of life in DCM are currently unknown, and these findings provide a novel and so far, unique perspective. These perspectives will be used to inform the development of a core outcome set for DCM which is inclusive of all relevant stakeholders, including PwCM.


Please cite as:

Khan DZ, Fitzpatrick SM, Hilton B, McNair AG, Sarewitz E, Davies BM, Kotter MR

Prevailing outcome themes reported by people with degenerative cervical myelopathy: findings from a semi-structured interview

JMIR Preprints. 19/03/2020:18732

DOI: 10.2196/preprints.18732


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