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Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome


child with Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological condition caused by the attachment of tissue that restricts the spinal cord movement inside of the spinal column. Because of these attachments, the spinal cord is stretched abnormally. The tethered spinal cord syndrome is closely related to spina bifida.


It’s estimated that anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of children born with spina bifida defects that were repaired shortly after they were born will require a procedure to untether the spinal cord. This is because the spinal cord remains in the same location after the spina bifida procedure. As the child continues to grow and mature, the spinal cord may become stretched, which interferes with the spinal cord’s blood supply and causes damage.


Causes of tethered cord syndrome include:

  • Myelomeningocele
  • Spinal Lipoma
  • Dermal sinus tract
  • Fatty filum


Children suffering from tethered spinal cord syndrome may experience difficulties walking or standing, back pain, leg pain, urinary and/or fecal incontinence, and numbness or weakness in the feet or legs.


The recommended treatment for “untethering” the spinal cord is surgery, which may also reverse or prevent progressive neurological symptoms. However, the procedure is only performed if there are symptoms of deterioration or clinical signs.


The type of surgery depends on the actual cause of the tethered spinal cord syndrome, such as myelomeningocele, dermal sinus, Spinal Lipoma, or fatty filum. Regardless of the cause, prompt surgical intervention is typically the best solution. Most children can return to their normal activities after a few weeks after the procedure has been successfully performed.

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