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Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

What is Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome?

Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column.  The tissue attachments cause an abnormal stretching of the spinal cord.  The course of the disorder is progressive. 

Symptoms of Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

In children, the most common symptoms of tethered spinal cord syndrome are:

  • unequal changes in size of the legs or feet
  • lesions, hairy patches, dimples, or fatty tumors on the lower back
  • foot and spinal deformities
  • weakness in the legs
  • low back pain
  • scoliosis
  • incontinence
  • loss of sensation in the legs or feet

How is Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome Diagnosed?

If a child has some of the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor. If you doctor suspects tethered spinal cord syndrome, he will perform and MRI to determine if your child has tethered spinal cord syndrome. A MRI gives a detailed 3-dimensional picture of the spine and the spinal column.

Tethered spinal cord syndrome may go undiagnosed until adulthood, when sensory and motor problems and incontinence occurs. 

What Causes Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome?

Tethered spinal cord syndrome is caused by improper growth of the neural tube during fetal development. It is closely linked to spina bifida. Tethering may also develop after spinal cord injury and scar tissue can block the flow of fluids around the spinal cord.

Can Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome be Treated?

Yes. With treatment, individuals with tethered spinal cord syndrome can live a normal life.

In children, early surgery can help prevent further neurological deterioration. If surgery is not an option, spinal cord nerve roots may be cut to relieve pain. 

In adults, surgery to can reduce the size and further development of cysts in the spinal cord and may restore some function or alleviate other symptoms. 

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