✓The tethered spinal cord is a fascinating yet controversial condition seen frequently in neurosurgical practice. Treatment decision making is made difficult by the variety of lesions and clinical presentations comprised by this condition and the absence of high-quality clinical outcome data to provide guidance. Clinical presentations may be divided into four general categories or typical scenarios: 1) significant dysraphic abnormality, clear clinical deterioration; 2) significant dysraphic abnormality, clinically normal or stable deficit; 3) incidentally discovered abnormality, other problem; and 4) tethered spinal cord symptomatology, normal imaging. The author provides case examples to illustrate potential treatment approaches and suggests balancing the risks and benefits for each general category.
Clearer diagnostic and treatment strategies for the tethered spinal cord will only result from high-quality clinical and basic research. Until the results of such research are available, surgeons should endeavor to maximize benefit and reduce risk for patients who may have a tethered spinal cord, walking the fine line between over- and undertreatment.