Pediatric tethered cord syndrome: response of scoliosis to untethering procedures

Clinical article

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Object

Tethered cord syndrome (TCS) is frequently associated with scoliosis in the pediatric population. Following spinal cord untethering, many patients continue to experience progression of spinal deformity. However, the incidence rate, time course, and risk factors for scoliosis progression following tethered cord release remain unclear. The aim of this study was to determine factors associated with scoliosis progression and whether tethered cord release alone would halt curve progression in pediatric TCS.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed 27 consecutive pediatric cases of spinal cord untethering associated with scoliosis. The incidence rate and factors associated with scoliosis progression (> 10° increased Cobb angle) after untethering were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results

The mean age of the patients was 8.9 years. All patients underwent cord untethering for lower-extremity weakness, back and leg pain, or bowel and bladder changes. Mean ± SD of the Cobb angle at presentation was 41 ± 16°. The cause of the spinal cord tethering included previous myelomeningocele repair in 14 patients (52%), fatty filum in 5 (18.5%), lipomeningocele in 3 (11%), diastematomyelia in 2 (7.4%), arthrogryposis in 1 (3.7%), imperforate anus with an S-2 hemivertebra in 1 (3.7%), and lipomyelomeningocele with occult dysraphism in 1 (3.7%). Mean follow-up was 6 ± 2 years. Twelve patients (44%) experienced scoliosis progression occurring a median of 2.4 years postoperatively and 8 (30%) required subsequent fusion for progression. At the time of untethering, scoliosis < 40° was associated with a 32% incidence of progression, whereas scoliosis > 40° was associated with a 75% incidence of progression (p < 0.01). Patients with Risser Grades 0–2 were also more likely to experience scoliosis progression compared with Risser Grades 3–5 (p < 0.05). Whereas nearly all patients with Risser Grades 0–2 with curves > 40° showed scoliosis progression (83%), 54% of patients with Risser Grades 0–2 with curves < 40° progressed, and no patients with Risser Grades 3–5 with curves < 40° progressed following spinal cord untethering.

Conclusions

In this experience with pediatric TCS-associated scoliosis, patients with Risser Grades 3–5 and Cobb angles < 40° did not experience curve progression after tethered cord release. Patients with Risser Grades 0–2 and Cobb angles > 40° were at greatest risk of curve progression after cord untethering. Pediatric patients with TCSassociated scoliosis should be monitored closely for curve progression using standing radiographs after spinal cord untethering, particularly those with curves > 40° or who have Risser Grades 0–2.

Abbreviations used in this paper: AP = anteroposterior; TCS = tethered cord syndrome.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Matthew J. McGirt, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, 600 North Wolfe Street, Meyer 7-113, Baltimore, Maryland 21287. email: mmcgirt1@jhmi.edu.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

Headings

Figures

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    Graph of scoliosis progression-free survival in pediatric patients with TCS-associated scoliosis as a function of time after tethered cord release.

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    Graph of scoliosis spinal fusion-free survival in pediatric patients with TCS-associated scoliosis as a function of time after tethered cord release.

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    Graphs showing scoliosis progression-free survival (upper) and scoliosis spinal fusion-free survival (lower) in pediatric patients with TCS-associated scoliosis as a function of time after tethered cord release. Patients are grouped according to Cobb angle (< 40° or > 40°) and Risser grade (0–2 or 3–5).

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