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The morphologic changes and signal intensity of the spinal cord on preoperative magnetic resonance images were correlated with postoperative outcomes in 74 patients undergoing decompressive cervical surgery for compressive myelopathy. The transverse area of the spinal cord on T1-weighted images at the level of maximum compression was closely correlated with the severity of myelopathy, duration of disease, and recovery rate as determined by the Japanese Orthopaedic Association score. In patients with ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament or cervical spondylotic myelopathy, the increased intramedullary T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging signal at the site of maximal cord compression and duration of disease significantly influenced the rate of recovery. A multiple regression equation was then developed with these three variables to predict surgical outcomes.