Long-term outcome following surgical treatment of posttraumatic tethered cord syndrome: a retrospective population-based cohort study

Spinal Cord. 2022 Jun;60(6):516-521. doi: 10.1038/s41393-022-00752-7. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


Study design: Retrospective population-based cohort study.

Objective: To investigate the long-term outcome following surgery for posttraumatic spinal cord tethering (PSCT).

Setting: Publicly funded tertiary care center.

Methods: Patients surgically treated for PSCT between 2005-2020 were identified and included. No patients were excluded or lost to follow-up. Medical records and imaging data were retrospectively reviewed.

Results: Seventeen patients were included. Median age was 52 (23-69) years and 7 (41%) were female. PSCT was diagnosed at a median of 5.0 (0.6-27) years after the initial trauma. Motor deficit was the most common neurological manifestation (71%), followed by sensory deficit (53%), spasticity (53%), pain (41%) and gait disturbance (24%). Median follow-up time was 5.1 (0.7-13) years. Fifteen patients (88%) showed satisfactory results following untethering, defined as improvement or halted progression of one or more of the presenting symptoms. Treatment goals were met for motor symptoms in 92%, sensory loss in 100%, spasticity in 100%, gait disturbance in 100% and pain in 86%. Statistically, a significant improvement in motor deficit (p = 0.031) and syrinx decrease (p = 0.004) was also seen. A postoperative complication occurred in four patients: three cases of cerebrospinal fluid leakage and one postoperative hematoma. Two patients showed a negative surgical outcome: 1 with increased neck pain and 1 with left arm weakness following the postoperative hematoma.

Conclusion: Surgical treatment of PSCT results in improved neurological function or halted neurological deterioration in the vast majority of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hematoma / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / complications
  • Neural Tube Defects* / diagnosis
  • Neural Tube Defects* / etiology
  • Neural Tube Defects* / surgery
  • Pain / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome