Caudal cell mass developmental aberrations: an imaging approach

Clin Imaging. 2018 Nov-Dec:52:216-225. doi: 10.1016/j.clinimag.2018.07.014. Epub 2018 Jul 21.


The objective of this review is to describe antenatal and postnatal imaging criteria, which allow diagnosis and aid workup, prognostication and treatment of developmental anomalies of the caudal cell mass. The lower spinal cord (conus medullaris), filum terminale and inferior lumbar and sacral nerve roots develop from the caudal cell mass, a remnant of the embryologic primitive streak composed of undifferentiated pluripotential cells. Anomalous caudal cell mass development can manifest as tight filum terminale, caudal dysgenesis, terminal myelocystocele, anterior sacral meningocele or sacrococcygeal teratoma. Lower spinal cord development occurs simultaneously and in topological proximity to the developing lower gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, leading to coexistent malformations. We review the embryology of the caudal cell mass, describe the role of antenatal and postnatal imaging for diagnosing, staging, prognosticating and guiding intranatal or postnatal intervention for developmental anomalies of this region and briefly discuss clinical manifestations and treatment goals and strategies. An overview of antenatal imaging diagnosis of associated multisystem abnormalities will be provided where applicable.

Keywords: Caudal dysgenesis; Caudal spine; Sacrococcygeal teratoma; Tight filum terminale.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cauda Equina / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meningomyelocele / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Sacrococcygeal Region / diagnostic imaging
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Dysraphism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Teratoma / diagnostic imaging*