Tethered Spinal Cord in Teens and Adults

Medically Reviewed by NJ Spine & Orthopedic on June 14, 2024

Living with a tethered spinal cord can be challenging and debilitating. This condition occurs when the spinal cord is abnormally attached to the tissues around the spine, restricting its movement. For teens and adults, the symptoms can be severe, ranging from back pain to loss of bladder control. Understanding tethered spinal cord syndrome is crucial for managing and treating this condition effectively.

NJ Spine & Orthopedic is here to provide the necessary care and treatment options for those suffering from a tethered spinal cord. We offer minimally invasive spine surgeries that can significantly improve your quality of life. Our team is dedicated to helping you regain your health and mobility, ensuring you receive the best care possible. Let’s delve into what a tethered spinal cord is, how it affects you, and available treatment options.

Understanding Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome

Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by the attachment of the spinal cord to surrounding tissues. This abnormal attachment limits the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column, leading to stretching and damage over time. This condition is often congenital but can also be acquired due to spinal trauma or surgeries.

The symptoms of tethered spinal cord syndrome vary widely depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the individual. In teens and adults, common symptoms include chronic back pain, leg pain, and muscle weakness. Other signs can be changes in gait, scoliosis, and even loss of bowel or bladder control. These symptoms can progressively worsen if left untreated, making early diagnosis and intervention crucial.

Diagnosing tethered spinal cord syndrome typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging studies. MRI scans are the most effective tool for visualizing the spinal cord and identifying abnormal attachments or tethering. Early detection allows for timely intervention, preventing further neurological damage and improving outcomes.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of tethered spinal cord syndrome can be divided into congenital and acquired categories. Congenital tethered spinal cord is present at birth and often associated with other spinal abnormalities such as spina bifida or lipomas. These developmental issues lead to the abnormal attachment of the spinal cord to surrounding structures.

Acquired tethered spinal cord syndrome can occur later in life due to various factors. Spinal injuries, including fractures and dislocations, can lead to scar tissue formation, which can tether the spinal cord. Additionally, surgeries on the spine can sometimes result in postoperative tethering due to the formation of scar tissue. Infections and tumors in the spinal region can also contribute to the development of this condition.

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing a tethered spinal cord. These include a history of spinal trauma, previous spinal surgeries, and congenital spinal defects. Regular monitoring and early intervention are essential for individuals with these risk factors to prevent the onset or progression of symptoms.

Treatment Options

Treatment for tethered spinal cord syndrome aims to relieve symptoms and prevent further neurological damage. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and the tethering’s underlying cause. In many cases, surgical intervention is necessary to release the tethered spinal cord and restore its normal movement.

Minimally invasive surgery is often the preferred approach for treating tethered spinal cord syndrome. This technique involves smaller incisions, resulting in less tissue damage, reduced scarring, and faster recovery times. During the surgery, the surgeon carefully detaches the spinal cord from the surrounding tissues, alleviating the tension and preventing further stretching.

Postoperative care is crucial for a successful recovery. Patients may require physical therapy to regain strength and mobility. Regular follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor the healing process and ensure the spinal cord remains untethered. In some cases, additional treatments such as pain management or rehabilitation may be needed to address any residual symptoms.

Living with a Tethered Spinal Cord

Living with a tethered spinal cord can significantly impact daily life. Chronic pain, mobility issues, and neurological symptoms can make routine activities challenging. However, many individuals can lead fulfilling lives with appropriate treatment and management. Early intervention and treatment plan adherence are vital to effectively managing this condition.

Support from healthcare providers, family, and support groups can make a significant difference. Emotional and psychological support is essential for coping with the challenges of living with a tethered spinal cord. Connecting with others who have similar experiences can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

How Can NJ Spine & Orthopedic Help You?

At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, we understand the challenges of living with a tethered spinal cord. Our dedicated team is committed to providing the highest quality care using minimally invasive techniques. We offer comprehensive diagnostic services and personalized treatment plans to address your unique needs. We aim to help you achieve the best possible outcome and improve your quality of life.

Patients from all over the nation come to NJ Spine for our advanced treatment options. Our Concierge Team coordinates everything to make your travel and stay as comfortable as possible. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call us at (866) 553-0612 or visit our contact form.

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