Sharad Rajpal, M. Shahriar Salamat, R. Shane Tubbs, David R. Kelly, W. Jerry Oakes and Bermans J. Iskandar
The goal of the present study goal was to systematically confirm the previously recognized nomenclature for tethering tracts that are part of the spectrum of occult spinal dysraphic lesions.
The tethering tract in 20 patients with spina bifida occulta underwent histological examination with H & E staining and epithelial membrane antigen (EMA) immunolabeling, and additional selected specimens were stained with Masson trichrome.
All tethering tracts contained fibrous connective tissue. Four tracts were lined with epithelial cells and either originated within a dermoid cyst, terminated at a skin dimple/sinus opening, or had both of these characteristics. No tethering tracts exhibited EMA positivity or meningeal elements. Although all tethering tracts originated in juxtaposition to the spinal cord, their termination sites were variable.
Based on histological findings and presumed embryological origin, the authors broadly classified tethering tracts terminating within the dura mater, epidural space, or lamina as “short tethering tracts” (STTs). The STTs occurred mostly in conjunction with split cord malformations and had a purely fibrous composition. Tethering tracts terminating superficial to the overlying lamina were classified as “long tethering tracts” (LTTs), and the authors propose that these are embryologically distinct from STTs. The LTTs were of two varieties: epithelial and nonepithelial, the former being typically associated with a skin dimple or spinal cord (epi)dermoid cyst. In fact, analysis of the data suggested that not every tethering tract terminating in or on the skin should be classified as a dermal sinus tract without histological confirmation, and because no evidence of meningeal tissue–lined tracts was detected, the use of the term “meningocele manqué” may not be appropriate.
Sharad Rajpal, R. Shane Tubbs, Timothy George, W. Jerry Oakes, Herbert E. Fuchs, Mark N. Hadley and Bermans J. Iskandar
Children with spina bifida occulta require early surgery to prevent neurological deficits. The treatment of patients with a congenitally tethered cord who present in adulthood remains controversial.
The authors studied the medical records of 61 adult patients who underwent surgical untethering for spina bifida occulta at three institutions between 1994 and 2003. Patients who had undergone prior myelomeningocele repair or tethered cord release surgery were excluded.
The most common intraoperative findings were lipomyelomeningocele (41%) and a tight terminal filum (36%). The follow-up duration ranged from 10.8 to 149.5 months. Of the 34 patients with back pain, status improved in 65%, worsened in 3%, remained unchanged in 18%, and improved and later recurred in 15%. Lower-extremity pain improved in 16 patients (53%), remained unchanged in 23%, improved and then recurred in 17%, and worsened in 7%. Lower-extremity weakness improved in 47%, remained unchanged in 47%, and improved and then recurred in 5%. Finally, of the 17 patients with lower-extremity sensory changes, status improved in 35%, remained unchanged in 35%, and the information on five patients was unavailable. Surgical complications included three wound infections, one cerebrospinal fluid leak, and two pseudomeningoceles requiring surgical revision. One patient developed acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis postoperatively and died several days later.
Adult-age presentation of a congenital tethered cord is unusual. Despite a slight increase in postoperative neurological injury in adults, surgery has relatively low risk and offers good potential for neurological improvement or stabilization. As they do in children, the authors recommend early surgery in adults with this disorder. The decision to undertake surgery, however, should be modulated by other factors such as a patient's general medical condition and risk posed by anesthesia.