What is Tethered Spinal Cord Release?
Tethered spinal cord release is a fairly routine surgical procedure used to treat a tethered cord. There are two types of tethered spinal cord release surgery. In the simplest and most common form, a neurosurgeon makes a small opening in the back of the spine, below the end of the spinal cord, to cut the filum terminale, which is a band of tissue at the end of the spinal cord. This is a short procedure with very low risks.
The more complex form of surgery is for patients who have previously had surgery to repair open spina bifida or other complex malformations, such as a lipoma or a split cord malformation. During the procedure, a neurosurgeon opens up the back and the spinal column to gently cut away the spinal cord from the scarred tissue it’s attached to, which allows the spinal cord to move freely. This is done using microsurgical techniques, but carries a slightly higher risk of complications.
If a child has tethered cord syndrome and doesn’t have the operation, their spinal cord could stretch even further, leading to more damage. Although tethered spinal cord surgery prevents symptoms from getting worse, it may not reverse the damage that has already happened. In some cases, children who have the procedure experience improvement of pain, weakness, numbness or tingling after surgery. However, the amount of lost muscle and bladder function that they recover varies for each individual.