Tethered Spinal Cord | Frequently Asked Questions

Will my child be OK?

A: Tethered cord is a very treatable condition, especially when diagnosed and treated early. But in some cases, a tethered spinal cord can cause nerve damage.

Is it possible to detect a tethered spinal cord before a baby is born?

A: A prenatal ultrasound may be able to detect tethered spinal cord before birth. Boston Children’s Hospital provides prenatal ultrasonography through our Maternal Fetal Care Center.

Will my child definitely need surgery?

A: Surgery is the only treatment that can actually “untether” the spinal cord, but not every child needs surgery. Your child’s neurosurgeon will talk with you about whether your child needs surgery. 

Can the spine “re-tether” after surgery?

A: It is possible that the spine can “re-tether” after surgery, especially during growth spurts. If this occurs, your child may need another surgery to fix the tethering.

Can surgery help restore any lost function?

A: Although surgery can untether the spinal cord, it cannot restore any functions—such as bowel and bladder control and sensation and mobility in the legs and feet—that your child may have already lost. With rehabilitation and support, children with these complications can regain some function and go on to active and healthy adult lives.

For more information

You can learn more about tethered cord at the Tethered Spinal Cord Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.