Surgery in adults with tethered cord syndrome: outcome study with independent clinical review

R van Leeuwen, N C Notermans, W P Vandertop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECT: The authors conducted a study to evaluate the risks and short-term benefits of surgical treatment for tethered cord syndrome (TCS) in patients older than 18 years of age.

METHODS: The authors studied a series of 57 consecutive adult patients with TCS of varying origins. Patients were examined by the same neurologist in a standardized fashion before and after surgery, and most were followed for at least 2 years postoperatively. Patient age ranged from 19 to 75 years. The mean age at onset of symptoms and diagnosis was 30 years and 37 years, respectively. Muscle strength improved (15 cases) or showed no change postoperatively (38 cases) in a large majority of patients (93%). In four patients a minor decrease in muscle strength was demonstrated, and there was significant deterioration in two (3.5%). In the two latter patients, a rapid decline in motor function was present preoperatively. Subjective assessment of pain, gait, sensory function, and bladder/bowel function at 4 weeks, 6 months, and 2 years postsurgery revealed improvement in a substantial percentage of patients. No major surgery-related complications occurred.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest series to date in which adult patients with TCS comprise the report. Untethering procedures in these patients were safe and effective, at least in the short term. Patients with rapid loss of motor function, lipomyelomeningocele, or split cord malformation seem to be at a higher risk of postsurgery deterioration. A follow-up period of many more years will be necessary to determine whether aggressive surgery is beneficial in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-9
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number2 Suppl
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001

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