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Joel Haakon Borgstedt-Bakke, Thea Overgaard Wichmann, Gudrun Gudmundsdottir, and Mikkel Mylius Rasmussen


The goal of this study was to establish an incidence and assess the effect of tethered cord release for tethered cord syndrome in patients with myelomeningocele.


The study population was based on the Western Denmark Myelomeningocele Database, which contains all patients born with myelomeningocele in western Denmark since 1970. The study population was cross-referenced in 2015 with a database for surgical procedures containing all surgical procedures performed in the central Denmark region since 1996. Patients alive between 1996 and 2015 were identified. Incidences was calculated and presented for year of age. File reviews were conducted for all patients who underwent the procedure. Follow-up was divided into short-term and long-term follow-up.


One hundred sixty-six patients were alive during various time periods between 1996 and 2015. Of these, 45 patients underwent the procedure. Seven underwent reoperation. The median age for the procedure was 12 years and the highest incidence was found at 15 years of age. Incidence was bimodal with highest incidence in children and adolescents. The most common indications were progressive spine deformity (40%), deteriorating ambulation (38%), and deteriorating neurogenic bladder and/or bowel dysfunction (32%). The mean short-term follow-up was 4.7 months and the mean long-term follow-up was 72.6 months. Postoperatively, the majority had improved (27%) or stabilized (27%) at short-term follow-up. At long-term follow-up, most patients were stable (27%) or had deteriorated (24%). For both follow-up terms there was a loss of approximately one-third of all patients. Complications occurred in 17% of the procedures.


In this population-based study, tethered cord release has the highest incidence in children and adolescents. The beneficial effect of the procedure seems to be short term. Due to the uncertainty of a long-term effect of the procedure in patients with myelomeningocele and the registered complications, the authors suggest that this surgical indication should be reserved for well-selected patients.