What Is Tethered Cord Syndrome?

Medically Reviewed by NJ Spine & Orthopedic on June 16, 2024

Tethered Cord Syndrome (TCS) is a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column. These attachments can cause an abnormal stretching of the spinal cord. TCS often presents itself in children but can also occur in adults. The condition can lead to serious symptoms, including pain, neurological deficits, and loss of function. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is essential for managing this condition effectively.

At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, we diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal conditions, including Tethered Cord Syndrome. Our team is dedicated to providing minimally invasive treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms of TCS and improve your quality of life. We understand dealing with spinal issues is challenging, but we are here to support you every step of the way.

Causes of Tethered Cord Syndrome

Tethered Cord Syndrome can result from several different factors. Congenital conditions, such as spina bifida, are among the most common causes. In these cases, the spinal cord fails to develop properly, leading to tethering. Scar tissue from previous surgeries, spinal injuries, and tumors can also cause the spinal cord to become tethered.

The abnormal tissue attachments restrict the movement of the spinal cord, causing it to stretch as the body grows or moves. This stretching can damage the spinal cord and nerves, leading to a variety of symptoms. It is important to identify the underlying cause of TCS to determine the best treatment approach.

Additionally, there are instances where Tethered Cord Syndrome is acquired later in life. These cases may arise from trauma or surgical interventions on the spine. Regardless of the cause, timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent further neurological damage.

Symptoms of Tethered Cord Syndrome

Symptoms of Tethered Cord Syndrome can vary widely depending on the severity and location of the tethering. In children, symptoms often become noticeable as they grow. Common signs include back pain, leg weakness, and difficulties with bladder or bowel control. Scoliosis, or an abnormal curvature of the spine, may also be a sign of TCS in children.

Adults with Tethered Cord Syndrome may experience similar symptoms, although they often present differently due to the gradual onset. Chronic pain in the lower back, legs, and feet is a frequent complaint. Neurological deficits, such as numbness or tingling in the extremities, can also occur. In severe cases, there may be a significant loss of motor function or coordination.

Symptoms can worsen over time if the condition is not treated. Early detection and intervention are key to preventing permanent neurological damage and improving the patient’s quality of life.

Diagnosing Tethered Cord Syndrome

Diagnosing Tethered Cord Syndrome typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging studies. The first steps are a detailed medical history and physical examination. During the physical exam, a physician will look for signs of neurological deficits and abnormalities in the spine.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most common imaging study used to diagnose TCS. An MRI can provide detailed images of the spinal cord and surrounding tissues, allowing physicians to identify any abnormal attachments or tethering. In some cases, additional tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans or ultrasound may be used to gather more information.

Early and accurate diagnosis is essential for developing an effective treatment plan. Once TCS is diagnosed, the next step is to determine the appropriate course of action to alleviate symptoms and prevent further neurological damage.

Treatment Options for Tethered Cord Syndrome

Treatment for Tethered Cord Syndrome often involves surgical intervention to release the tethered spinal cord. The goal of surgery is to free the spinal cord from its abnormal attachments, allowing it to move more freely and reducing the risk of further stretching and damage. In many cases, minimally invasive techniques can be used, which can reduce recovery time and minimize scarring.

Post-surgery, physical therapy is often recommended to help patients regain strength and mobility. Pain management strategies, including medications and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, can also be beneficial. Regular follow-up appointments are crucial to monitor progress and address any new or recurring symptoms.

Non-surgical treatments may be considered for patients with mild symptoms or those who are not good candidates for surgery. These treatments can include physical therapy, pain management, and lifestyle modifications to reduce strain on the spine.

How Can NJ Spine & Orthopedic Help with Tethered Cord Syndrome?

At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, we are committed to providing personalized care for patients with Tethered Cord Syndrome. Our team utilizes the latest minimally invasive techniques to treat TCS, aiming to minimize pain and maximize recovery. We understand the importance of accurate diagnosis and timely intervention in managing this condition effectively. We offer comprehensive concierge services to help coordinate every aspect of your treatment. 

Our team assists with travel arrangements, ensuring patients from all over the nation can access our world-class care. Whether you require surgical intervention or non-surgical treatment, we are here to support you on your journey to better health. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Tethered Cord Syndrome, do not hesitate to reach out to us. Contact NJ Spine & Orthopedic at (866) 553-0612 or visit our contact form. Our dedicated team is ready to help you achieve relief and improve your quality of life.

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