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Occult tethered cord syndrome: not an indication for surgery

James M. Drake

Object

The author describes the paucity of information known about occult tethered cord syndrome and summarizes the argument for using a nonsurgical approach in these cases.

Methods

A review of what we do and do not know about this syndrome is provided. Surgical procedures to divide the terminal filum in patients with symptoms of tethered spinal cord without the imaging correlates are said to result in clinical improvement, yet there is little physiological evidence to support the surgical release of the filum in the absence of other anatomical lesions. Validated diagnostic and outcome measures are also lacking, which makes the interpretation of reported results exceedingly difficult. Finally, reports used to support surgical intervention are limited by small size, the absence of control groups, and observer bias.

Conclusions

Without conclusive clinical evidence, the arguments supporting surgery for occult tethered cord syndrome must be viewed cautiously.

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Surgical management of the tethered spinal cord—walking the fine line

James M. Drake

✓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.

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Does double gloving prevent cerebrospinal fluid shunt infection?

James M. Drake

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Reversibility of functionally injured neurotransmitter systems with shunt placement in hydrocephalic rats: implications for intellectual impairment in hydrocephalus

Yuzuru Tashiro and James M. Drake

Intellectual impairment has been related to alteration of neuronal innervation in the following regions: cholinergic basal forebrain nuclei (Ch1–Ch6, learning and memory), dopaminergic ventral tegmental area (emotional control), and noradrenergic locus ceruleus (cognition). Recent studies have implicated neuronal injury in the pathogenesis of hydrocephalus.

Object. The authors used immunohistochemical techniques to investigate functional injury in these regions in animals with progressive hydrocephalus, following shunt placement for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage.

Methods. Hydrocephalus was induced in 20 Wistar rats by intracisternal injection of 0.05 ml of 25% kaolin solution. Four control animals (Group 1) received the same volume of saline. Ventriculoperitoneal shunts were inserted in eight rats at 2 and 4 weeks after kaolin injection and the animals were killed at 8 weeks (Group 2). The other 12 hydrocephalic animals were killed at 2, 4, and 8 weeks without undergoing shunt placement (Group 3). Immunoreactive (IR) neurons to choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) in Ch1–Ch6, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the ventral tegmental area, and dopamine B-hydroxylase (DBH) in the locus ceruleus, as well as IR projection fibers in the terminal areas, were compared between groups. The number of ChAT- and TH-IR neurons in rats with and without shunt placement was counted for quantitative analysis. The number of ChAT-IR neurons was progressively reduced during the development of hydrocephalus in Ch1, Ch2, Ch3, and Ch4 (p < 0.05). Tyrosine-hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons were also reduced in number, and demonstrated decreased projection fibers and terminals. Early shunting (at 2 weeks) restored ChAT and TH immunoreactivity to control levels, but late shunting (at 4 weeks) did not (p < 0.05). The DBH—IR neurons in the locus ceruleus were remarkably compressed by the dilated fourth ventricle, and diminished immunoreactivity was observed in the terminal areas. Shunt placement for CSF also restored the immunoreactivity in this system.

Conclusions. These findings indicate that a progressive functional injury occurs in the cholinergic, dopaminergic, and noradrenergic systems as a result of hydrocephalus. This may contribute to intellectual impairment and might be prevented by early treatment with shunt placement.

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Introduction by Topic Editors, Peter W. Carmel, M.D., and James M. Drake, M.D.

Peter W. Carmel and James Drake

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging Surveillance

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Shunt Infections

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Congenital hydrocephalus

James M. Drake

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Shunt Infection

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Editorial

Shunt failure

James M. Drake