Pediatric tethered cord syndrome: Response of scoliosis to untethering procedures

Matthew J. McGirt, Vivek Mehta, Giannina Garces-Ambrossi, Oren Gottfried, C. A.N. Solakoglu, Ziya L Gokaslan, Amer Samdani, George I. Jallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


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 fi-lum 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-274
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Outcome
  • Progression
  • Risser grade
  • Scoliosis
  • Stabilization
  • Tethered cord syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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