Tethered Spinal Cord

Also known as: tethered spinal cord syndrome, tethered cord, tethered cord syndrome or TCS

What is a tethered spinal cord?

The spinal cord normally floats freely in the spinal canal allowing it to move as an infant/child moves, bends, etc. As the infant/child grows the cord grows and moves with it. A tethered cord is held fixed or held taught by a band (usually at the end of the cord) in the spinal canal. This causes the spinal cord to stretch as the child grows.
 

What causes tethered spinal cord?

The disorder can be caused by a variety of factors. In many infants, it is associated with some other birth defect like spina bifida. Trauma to the spinal cord or spinal column from tumors, injuries or multiple spinal surgeries can also lead to the development of tethered spinal cord.
 

What are the symptoms of tethered spinal cord?

Symptoms vary widely (and can present later in life) depending on what part of the spinal cord is affected. In some children, the only sign is a skin discoloration, dimple, hairy patch, skin tag, or fatty tumor in the lower back. Leg and back pain, numbness, difficulty walking and leg and spine deformities may be seen. Abnormalities in bladder or bowel function can occur.
 

What are tethered spinal cord care options?

In patients with severe symptoms, surgery to untether the spinal cord from the surrounding tissue is performed. A few may require more than one operation.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 6/12/2018 10:30:14 AM

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January Patient of the Month: Layla
When Layla was 5, she came to Nicklaus Children's Hospital with a severe case of scoliosis. To help straighten her spine, Layla spent time in halo gravity traction. While her mom returned home to Gainesville for work and school, the nurses at Nicklaus Children's took care of Layla, acting as substitute mothers and making sure she was well cared for.
January Patient of the Month: Layla
When Layla was 5, she came to Nicklaus Children's Hospital with a severe case of scoliosis. To help straighten her spine, Layla spent time in halo gravity traction. While her mom returned home to Gainesville for work and school, the nurses at Nicklaus Children's took care of Layla, acting as substitute mothers and making sure she was well cared for.