Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

August 23, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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One of the worst experiences in a person’s life is finding out a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. You feel shocked, overwhelmed, and devastated. While you have to come to terms with this new reality, you also have to become familiarized with an entirely new medical vocabulary. You also have to figure out how to recognize signs that something may be wrong, administer medications, and ensure your loved one’s quality of life is as close to comfortable as possible. Such are all the emotions and questions that come rushing when you first hear the term tethered spinal cord syndrome. What does it mean? What causes it? And, what are the best forms of treatment?

What is tethered spinal cord syndrome?

Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a disorder that occurs when the spinal cord becomes attached to the tissues surrounding the spine. As a result, the movements of the spinal cord are limited. As a child with tethered spinal cord syndrome grows, their spinal cord becomes stretched out. This often leads to nerve damage and pain. The condition is progressive — meaning that it gets worse with time. It is most often diagnosed in children with spina bifida.

Causes of Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

The lower end of the spinal cord is located between the first and second lumbar vertebrae. When a person has spina bifida, the spinal cord does not separate from the skin on the back. It is here that the tissue buildup occurs, tethering the spinal cord to the lower back. While this can be corrected by surgery soon after birth, as the child grows and the spinal cord gets stretched, they may experience interference with the blood supply to their spinal cord. While spina bifida is one of the main causes of tethered spinal cord syndrome, in some instances, the condition could also be caused by:

Symptoms of Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

A child with tethered spinal cord syndrome will usually develop symptoms. The most common include:

  • Spine tenderness
  • Leg deformities
  • Deep dimple on the lower back
  • Lesions on the lower back
  • Fatty tumor on the lower back
  • Discoloration on the lower back
  • Hairy patch on the lower back
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Bowel and bladder issues
  • Back pain, worsened by activity and relieved with rest
  • Leg pain, especially in the back of legs
  • Leg numbness or tingling
  • Deterioration in gait
  • Progressive or repeated muscle contractions

Diagnosis and Treatment of Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

Diagnosing tethered spinal cord syndrome requires several tests. These may include an MRI to review your child’s spine through detailed, three-dimensional images of their spinal cord. Additional tests may include a CT or CAT scan to see how dye flows in the area surrounding your child’s spine.

Once a diagnosis has been made, your child’s pediatrician may recommend surgery to untether the spinal cord. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove a small portion of vertebrae in order to decompress the spine from the surrounding tissue buildup. This will restore some or all of the mobility to your child’s spine.

Recovery takes several weeks. If the condition is severe, your child may experience loss of bladder and/or bowel function, as well as a loss of muscle strength. If this occurs, your child will be referred to physical and/or occupational therapy.

Contact Care Options for Kids For Pediatric Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child who has a genetic disorder. Homecare providers offer the support you or your loved one needs.

That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help. Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent caregivers to provide customized care for families – from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.