Tethering of the spinal cord is a pathological fixation of the cord in the vertebral column that can result in neurogenic bladder dysfunction and other neurological problems. It occurs in patients with closed spinal dysraphisms and those in whom postoperative scarring develops following spina bifida closure procedures. The authors of this study sought to determine the effects of detethering on the urodynamic profile of children with a tethered cord.
The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of children who underwent surgical release of a tethered cord at a single institution between 2001 and 2003. They identified 17 children (nine girls and eight boys) who had undergone both preoperative and postoperative urodynamic evaluation.
Preoperatively, 10 (59%) of the children with a tethered cord had abnormal urodynamic study (UDS) results. Only two (20%) of these patients had urological symptoms. All seven patients with normal preoperative UDS results had normal UDS results after detethering. In addition, in five (50%) of the 10 children with abnormal preoperative UDS results, the postoperative UDS demonstrated improved or normal urodynamics.
Because more than half of the children who underwent detethering were found to have abnormal pre-operative UDS results, preoperative urodynamic evaluation should be performed in all cases in which detethering is considered. With regard to voiding function, detethering is relatively safe for children with normal preoperative UDS results. In children with abnormal preoperative UDS results, detethering may lead to improvement or even normalization of voiding, especially if the procedure is performed prior to 1 year of age. Finally, children with anorectal anomalies and a tethered cord may represent a subset of patients who are particularly likely to experience urodynamic improvement after detethering.