Borderline low conus medullaris on infant lumbar sonography: what is the clinical outcome and the role of neuroimaging follow-up?

Pediatr Radiol. 2011 Apr;41(4):483-7. doi: 10.1007/s00247-010-1889-y. Epub 2010 Nov 16.


Background: Isolated borderline low conus medullaris is a frequent finding on screening lumbar sonography of unknown significance that often prompts further imaging and clinical follow-up.

Objective: To determine the clinical outcome and utility of follow-up neuroimaging in infants with isolated borderline low conus on lumbar sonography.

Materials and methods: We reviewed 748 consecutive spinal sonograms identifying infants with conus terminating between L2-L3 disc space and mid-L3 level without other findings of tethered cord. We excluded infants with conditions associated with developmental delay and those who passed away, and compared the age of gross motor milestone achievement to normal ranges. Follow-up imaging was reviewed.

Results: Isolated borderline low conus was found in 90 of 748 infants (12%) on sonography. Seventy of those infants met inclusion criteria. Follow-up imaging in 11 children (10 MRI, 1 sonogram), showed change in conus position to "normal" level in 10, no change in 1, and no new findings within lumbar spine. Clinical follow-up was available in 50 of 70 (71%) children meeting inclusion criteria, with normal motor milestones met in all 50 children.

Conclusion: Isolated borderline low conus is a common finding in infants who meet normal developmental milestones suggesting that follow-up evaluation has little utility and is likely unwarranted.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spina Bifida Occulta / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography