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Tethered Spinal Cord

Many people have never heard of a tethered spinal cord. Unfortunately, when they do it is because they have a child that is either born with one or who is later diagnosed with having a tethered spinal cord. Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological disorder. It is caused by tissues that attach themselves to the spine. These attachments cause the spinal cord to stretch abnormally. It is possible for tethered spinal cord disorder to go
undiagnosed until someone reaches adulthood.

Children that show symptoms of tethered spinal cord may have fatty tumors in their lower backs. They may have spinal deformities, foot deformities, weak legs, hairy patches on their skin, lesions, incontinence, pain in their back and/or scoliosis. Tethered spinal cord is thought to be a result of growth abnormalities that occur while the baby is in the womb. Tethered spinal cord is linked to spina bifida.

People who are not diagnosed with tethered spinal cord syndrome until they are adults generally seek out medical help when they start to have problems with their motor skills, sensory problems or problems with bladder and/or bowel control. The reason there may be a delay in tethered spinal cord showing itself until adulthood is thought to be somehow related to the degree or the amount of strain that the tissues place on the spinal cord.

It is also believed that tethering may develop if the spinal cord suffers from an injury and scar tissue develops which impedes or blocks the ability of fluids to flow through the spinal cord. If pressure develops in the spinal fluid than cysts can develop, this is known as syringomyelia. If a person is suspected of having a tethered spinal cord a MRI is usually performed to confirm the condition.

Children who have a tethered spinal cord often undergo surgery, even if they show no symptoms. Surgery helps to prevent further neurological deterioration and/or complications. Many times the operations are low risk. Severe tethering may require additional surgeries as the child grows.

If your child has a tethered spinal cord it is important that she is treated by neurosurgical team that works closely with other specialists including radiologists, orthopedists, neurologists and pediatric urologists. With the right support and medical care your child can have a normal life expectancy.

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