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Tethered spinal cord syndrome

Tethered spinal cord syndrome means that the spinal cord cannot move freely in the spine. The anchored spinal cord can occur at any time during childhood or as an adult.

By the time the baby is born, the spinal cord is usually located in front of the disc between the first and second lumbar vertebra near the upper area of ​​the lower back. In a baby with spina bifida, the spinal cord will remain attached to the surrounding skin and will not be able to ascend normally. As a consequence, the spinal cord at the time of birth is lower than normal or anchored.


What are the symptoms?

As the child (and the bony spine) continues to grow, the spinal cord can stretch; this damages the spinal cord both by stretching it directly and by interfering with its blood supply. The result can be neurological, urological or progressive orthopaedic deterioration.

When the spinal cord is stretched, the following symptoms will appear:

-Back pain.
-Leg pain.
-Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet.
-Difficulty standing or walking.
-Faecal and/or urinary incontinence.
-Deformity of the feet.
-Worsening of scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine).
-Changes in the growth of the spine or feet.



Your doctor may consider surgical intervention, taking into account both the symptoms and signs, but also the results of preoperative studies. Timing of surgery is important, because the longer the deterioration is allowed to continue, the less likely it is that the underlying function will be restored through surgery. The timing depends on the magnitude and speed of the changes.

Patients with anchored spinal cord need surgery to prevent them from having problems later. During surgery, the spinal cord is carefully released from the surrounding tissue.

It is usually a very safe procedure in our experienced hands. The complications rate is extremely low (1 – 2%).

After the surgery, you should avoid twisting, stretching, pulling or straining with your back until instructed otherwise.

At The London Spine Unit, The Harley Street Hospital, we have some of the best specialists to diagnose and treat this disease. Book an appointment to get a check up.

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