What Is a Tethered Spinal Cord?

Due to its attachment to the tissues surrounding the spine, a tethered spinal cord is unable to move freely within the spinal canal. Infants are frequently affected by the disorder, which causes discomfort and nerve damage that gets worse with time.

The spine rarely becomes tethered. Although it can happen to adults, it affects infants the most frequently, impacting about 0.25 of every 1,000 newborns.

It is crucial to identify infants with a tethered spinal cord so that their nerve growth is not hampered and unpleasant symptoms do not worsen with time.

Adults can also have painful symptoms from a tethered spinal cord, in addition to babies.

What is a tethered spinal cord?

A person with a tethered spinal cord is one whose spinal cord cannot move freely because it is linked to the tissues around the spine. A tethered spinal cord may be discovered at or soon after delivery, or it may be there at birth but not be noticed right away. Rarely, a spinal cord lesion may cause a tethered cord to form.

Tethered spinal cord syndrome, a neurological condition, is the diagnosis for those with tethered spinal cord.

What signs would a youngster have of a tethered spinal cord?

Children with a tethered spinal cord may exhibit the following symptoms:
  • changes in the feet and spine
  • loss of bowel and bladder control
  • lower back pain
  • scoliosis
  • leg weakness
  • sensory and motor problems
conditions of the lower back, such as:
  • skin discolouration
  • sores
  • hairy patches
  • fatty tumours
  • dimples

How is a tethered spinal cord diagnosed?

A physical exam is frequently the first step in diagnosing a tethered spinal cord. An ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan will be ordered by a clinician if there are indications of a tethered spinal cord. A tethered spinal cord can be verified by these medical photos.

What is the treatment for a tethered spinal cord?

Surgery is frequently needed to free the spinal cord from the tether as part of treatment for a tethered spinal cord. Depending on the symptoms present and how the spinal cord is linked, different surgical procedures will be used.

The medical team may choose to wait and see what occurs in some situations if a patient has a tethered spinal cord and no symptoms before suggesting surgery.

Although a tethered spinal cord cannot be cured, medication can help with the painful symptoms. Medication may be prescribed by a doctor to ease pain or to calm spasming muscles.

What are the complications of a tethered spinal cord?

The spinal cord being tied may cause lasting nerve damage and prevent the spine from extending completely. Muscle weakness or lack of motor control symptoms may never completely go away if surgery is delayed until later in life.

Following spinal surgery, complications could occur:
  • cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • infections
  • spinal cord and nerve injuries
It's critical to keep checking on patients who have surgery to relieve a tethered spinal cord. Another operation can be required if their spinal cord re-tethers.

What are the risk factors for a tethered spinal cord?

People may be more susceptible to developing a tethered spinal cord if they:
  • spina bifida
  • a background in spine injury or surgery
Young children with tethered spinal cords may have abnormal neural tube development during womb development. A tethered spinal cord can also happen to a person at any time as a result of scar tissue, an infection, or a tumour.

What is the prognosis for those who have a spinal cord that is tethered?

Since tethered spinal cord syndrome is a degenerative condition, symptoms usually get worse if left untreated.

After surgery, the prognosis is typically optimistic, however, outcomes can vary depending on several factors, such as:
  • no matter your age or gender
  • the signs you're feeling
  • what holds your spinal cord in place
  • If you also suffer from tumours or illnesses like spina bifida,


When the spinal cord is attached to the tissues around the spine, it is said to be tethered. If a person has spinal trauma or spina bifida, they are more likely to experience this.

If a tethered spinal cord is not addressed, symptoms usually get worse. Pain can be relieved with spinal cord release surgery. It's critical to inform your doctor if you think you may have a tethered spinal cord so that a physical examination and imaging tests can be carried out.


Is tethered cord treatable?

Cysts in the spinal cord can shrink and stop growing with surgery to release (detach) them.

Is tethered cord surgery serious?

Tethered cord surgery has risks and complications.

Can you live with a tethered spinal cord?

A patient with a tethered spinal cord may go untreated into adulthood, albeit it is uncommon.

Is tethered cord genetic?

In certain particular circumstances, the condition may have a hereditary basis or some people are genetically prone to having the disorder.

Is tethered cord a disability?

Can cause individuals to develop serious, progressive disabilities.

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