The human tail and spinal dysraphism

Allan Joel Belzberg, Stanley Terence Myles, Cynthia Lucy Trevenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Recent publications have endeavoured to differentiate between the true, or vestigial tail, and the pseudotail by clinical and pathological examination, and have indicated the benign nature of the true tail. The true tail arises from the most distal remnant of the embryonic tail, contains adipose, connective, muscle, and nerve tissue, and is covered by skin. Pseudotails represent a variety of lesions having in common a lumbosacral protrusion and a superficial resemblance to vestigial tails. A review of the case reports indicates spina bifida to be the most frequent coexisting anomaly with both. A review of occult spinal dysraphism shows it to be associated with cutaneous signs in more than 50% of instances. Three cases of spinal dysraphism with tail-like cutaneous structures are described and their radiological, operative, and pathological findings presented. The classification of each of the appendages into true tail or pseudotail remains obscure. Although the finding of these three tails was the subject of much curiosity, surgical treatment was clearly designed to adequately deal with the associated dysraphic state. The presence of a tail-like appendage in the lumbosacral region should alert the clinician to the possibility of underlying spinal dysraphism. Preoperative assessment must include a complete neurological history and examination as well as computed tomographic or magnetic resonance imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1245
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Human tail
  • spina bifida
  • tethered cord syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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