Comparative Study of Untethering and Spine-Shortening Surgery for Tethered Cord Syndrome in Adults

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Study Design

Retrospective multicenter study.


Although untethering surgery has been a standard treatment in patients with adult tethered cord syndrome (TCS), spine-shortening osteotomy (SSO) has recently been performed as an alternative technique. The purpose of this study was to compare the clinical outcomes of the two procedures for TCS in adults.


Fourteen patients (37.7 ± 12.5 years) with TCS were enrolled at 6 hospitals. Their clinical charts, operative records, and follow-up data were reviewed. The categories of tethering lesions were tight terminal filum in 1 patient, lipoma in 5 patients, and lipomyelomeningocele in 8 patients. Eleven patients underwent untethering surgery, and 3 patients underwent SSO surgery.


There were no significant differences in age, sex, types of preoperative symptoms, or duration of follow-up between the two groups. The preoperative duration of symptoms was significantly longer (25 ± 12.4 years) and the percentage of those with prior surgery was higher in the SSO group (66.7%). The preoperative pathology was lipomeningocele in all SSO group and lipoma or tight terminal filum in the untethering group. Cerebrospinal fluid leakage and urinary infection occurred in 1 patient each among those with untethering, and massive intraoperative bleeding occurred in 1 patient with SSO. SSO provided better clinical improvement than untethering surgery (p = 0.003).


Based on this small retrospective case series, SSO appears to provide clinical improvement at least comparable to the untethering procedure, especially in more challenging cases.

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