Recurrent tethered cord: Radiological investigation and management

Massimo Caldarelli, Alessandro Boscarelli, Luca Massimi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Recurrent tethered cord (RTC) is almost the rule after the repair of myelomeningocele and quite frequent after the repair of lipomyelomeningocele, resulting from the adhesions of the placode within a too narrow spinal canal. About one-third of patients with myelomeningocele and 10 % of those with spinal lipoma develop symptomatic RTC, mainly caused by the ischemic-metabolic injuries due to the cord stretching. The goal of this review is to provide information about the pathophysiology, the radiological picture, and the management of RTV according to the pertinent literature and the authors' experience. Radiological investigation: The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) picture is characterized by a low position of the conus and by tethering of the spinal cord to the subcutaneous scar or to the inner surface of the spinal canal. The radiological work-up always includes brain MRI, to rule out other possible causes of late neurological deterioration (as shunt malfunction), and MRI of the whole spinal cord, to detect possible associated lesions (syringomyelia, dermoids, etc.). X-rays and/or computed tomography scan of the spine is required for the assessment of scoliosis or other bony malformations. Management: The surgical treatment is planned after a multidisciplinary neurological, urological, orthopedic, physiatric, and radiological evaluation. The surgical detethering is carried out cautiously, possibly with electrophysiological intraoperative monitoring. Surgery ensures improvement or stability of the clinical picture in 70-80 % of cases, the remaining 20-30 % of patients needing multiple operations for their recovery. Complications may affect up to one-third of operated patients, being mainly represented by CSF leak, pseudomeningocele, and shunt malfunction. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1601-1609
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Dysraphism
  • Humans
  • Meningomyelocele
  • Myelomeningocele
  • Neural Tube Defects
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health
  • Radiography
  • Recurrence
  • Recurrent tethered cord
  • Spinal cord


Dive into the research topics of 'Recurrent tethered cord: Radiological investigation and management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this