Tethered Spinal Cord in Children | Treatments

What are the treatment options for tethered spinal cord? 

For many children, surgery to “untether” the spinal cord is the only treatment for tethered spinal cord. There are several types of surgery, depending on the cause of the tethering and how much tissue is affected.

  • Surgery for a thick or fatty filum terminale (the tissue that connects the spinal cord to the backbone) - When the tethering is caused by a thick or fatty filum terminale, the surgery is relatively quick and simple. Most children who have this type of surgery are in the hospital for two to three days. 
  • Surgery for tumors or fatty masses – This type of surgery is usually more involved because the tissue tethering the spine may have grown into the spine and nerves around it. Children who have this type of surgery usually stay in the hospital for four to seven days.

Your neurosurgeon can provide you and your family with the most specific and detailed recommendations for your child's surgical treatment.

Can medication help?

Tethered spinal cord can't be treated with medication, but it can help manage the some symptoms of tethered spinal cord. Your child’s doctor may prescribe:

  • analgesics to relieve pain
  • muscle relaxants to prevent painful muscle spasms 

Follow-up care after surgery

The type of follow-up care your child will need depends on his or her surgery and the extent of the tethering. In most cases the neurosurgeon will follow your child’s progress with yearly exams to make sure the spinal cord does not become tethered again.

Support services

If your child had any nerve damage before surgery, he or she may continue to have problems with bladder or bowel control, pain or weakness in the legs or feet, or trouble standing and walking. Children with these problems may benefit from support services such as physical therapy or occupational therapy.

Expert care for tethered spinal cord

Our experts in the Boston Children's Hospital Tethered Spinal Cord Program have years of experience treating these disorders, using minimally- invasive techniques whenever possible. We’re always available to answer questions and address any concerns you may have.

Helpful links

You can learn more about tethered spinal cord on the following websites: