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Brain, Nervous System and Mental Conditions

Tethered Spinal Cord


Treatment for a tethered spinal cord usually is surgery to free the spinal cord.

Tethered Spinal Cord Treatment Options

To free the spinal cord, neurosurgeons first do a procedure called a laminectomy. They remove one or more parts of bones in the spine (vertebrae). This lets them reach the spinal cord, the spinal nerve roots and the thecal sac around the spinal cord.

Then the neurosurgeon frees up the spinal cord by gently cutting, or teasing, it away from the scar tissue or fat. Neurosurgeons use a microscope to help them see the area during the procedure.

Our neurosurgeons use sophisticated neuromonitoring. This lets them keep watch on the nerves and muscles of the lower part of your child's body during surgery. It helps neurosurgeons avoid the risk of further damaging your child’s nerves.

After the spinal cord is free, neurosurgeons sometimes apply a patch to the covering of the spinal cord (dura mater). This limits the chances cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will leak.

Once a child has had surgery to repair the spinal cord or has had the spinal cord freed up (detethered), there is a 20% chance that the cord will attach again as the child continues to grow. Some children need repeated surgeries to free their spinal cords.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)