Some signs of a tethered spinal cord (TSC) may be present at birth and give doctors or other medical care providers a good indication that they need to check for issues that require treatment.
When these signs are not present or get overlooked, doctors may not diagnose the child until they fall behind in motor development, struggle with walking, or are old enough to voice their pain.
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Symptoms of a Tethered Spinal Cord in Infants and Children
In many cases, children born with a tethered spinal cord present certain signs that may indicate a problem. If your infant has any of these signs, your doctor should perform additional testing to rule out or diagnose a tether. The signs include:
- A lesion on the lower back
- A dimple on the lower back
- Uneven or asymmetrical bottom
- A fatty tumor (lipoma) on the lower back
- Skin discoloration on the lower back
- Tufts or patch of thick hair on the lower back
- Commonly co-occurring conditions, such as certain foot and leg deformities and spina bifida
If children are not diagnosed with TSC shortly after birth, their symptoms may become apparent when they fail to crawl, stand, and walk with their peers, or when they reach an age when they can verbalize their pain and other symptoms. Symptoms of TSC include:
- Back pain that gets worse with activity
- Leg pain, numbness, or tingling
- Loss of strength in one or both legs
- Issues with gait
- Muscle contractions
- Tenderness around the spine in the lower back
- Difficulty controlling bladder or bowels
In some cases, it is possible that the symptoms of TSC are not severe enough that the patient gets medical attention until they reach the teen years or adulthood. When this occurs, there may be more impact on the nerves in the lower body, and the patient may exhibit more sensory and motor problems.
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Treatment and Recovery for a Tethered Spinal Cord
The gold-standard treatment for TSC is surgery to remove the tether. To perform this operation, surgeons have to work closely with neurologists to ensure nerve function remains intact. This treatment requires careful monitoring during surgery and planning ahead to minimize the risk of damaging the nerves, nerve roots, or the spinal cord itself.
In most cases, the surgeon will make an incision in the back over the tether and open the bones that make up the spinal column so they can see the tether and how far it extends. Only then can they carefully remove the tether and allow the spinal cord to ascend into the correct place.
Surgery generally allows patients with TSC to avoid progressive symptoms, to stabilize their current symptoms, or even allow them to increase their motor function and reduce their pain. Physical therapy may follow surgery, and patients will require regular monitoring.
You May Have a Valid Medical Malpractice Case Against the Doctor or Hospital Because of Your Child’s TSC
If doctors failed to recognize the signs of TSC in your infant or missed a diagnosis later, you may have a valid medical malpractice case against the doctor or hospital. Getting an early and accurate diagnosis can greatly affect the outcome of treatment and the quality of life your child lives.
If you believe your doctor failed to diagnose your child as soon as possible because of a careless or negligent medical mistake, a birth injury attorney who practices in your state can review your case for free. They will explain the strength of your case and help you collect evidence to prove the doctor or hospital committed medical malpractice.
They can take legal action and pursue compensation for your family, representing your child’s best interests throughout the process. Most offer complimentary consultations for families whose children were born with TSC.
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Talk to an Attorney in Your State About Your Child’s Tethered Spinal Cord
You may be able to take legal action on behalf of your child exhibiting symptoms of a tethered spinal cord, but it is important that you act quickly. Each state has its own statute of limitations relevant to this type of case. You may be able to toll, or delay, this deadline, depending on the laws in your state. The best way to learn more is to talk to an attorney who accepts birth injury cases in your state.
At the Birth Injury Lawyers Group, we can help you connect with a lawyer near you. Call us today at (800) 222-9529 to get started. You may be able to schedule your case evaluation the same day or within 24 hours.