A tethered spinal cord (TSC) occurs when the spinal cord remains improperly attached to other tissues at the base of the spinal canal. This causes the spinal cord to stretch improperly as the child grows, leading to pain, numbness, and loss of motor function.
It is often possible to diagnose infants at birth or soon after, thanks to signs and co-occurring conditions. Other babies get their diagnosis later, early in childhood. It is important to get an early diagnosis and treatment because symptoms can progress as the child grows. Treatment generally requires surgery and regular follow-up monitoring. In some cases, follow-up surgery is necessary.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis of a Tethered Spinal Cord
There are generally two types of tethered spinal cord, based on the age at diagnosis. Infants diagnosed with TSC have “congenital” TSC while those diagnosed later have “acquired” TSC. Because it is the growth of the child and not the tethering itself that causes symptoms, when symptoms occur and how quickly they occur is different for each child.
Children with TSC may have telltale signs at birth, including extremely high arches, hammertoes, and benign signs such as discoloration or a dimple on their lower back. The presence of any of these signs should trigger additional testing to determine if there is a TSC.
Older infants and children may experience symptoms related to the stretching and pressure on their spinal cord, including:
- Lower back pain with activity
- Leg pain, numbness, and issues with motor function
- Gait issues
- Scoliosis or exaggerated lordosis
- Difference in leg strength
- Loss of bladder and bowel control.
If your child has signs or symptoms that may indicate a tethered spinal cord, your doctor should order magnetic and resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) and an ultrasound. In babies and children with a TSC, these tests will reveal a low-lying spinal cord and thickened tissue (in the filum terminale) at the base of the spine.
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Treatment to Release a Tethered Spinal Cord
Surgery to release a tethered spinal cord requires the surgeon to work closely with a team of neurologists and others to ensure they can release the tether without doing damage to the nearby nerves, nerve roots, and spinal cord. The procedure itself requires the surgeon to open the spinal column, determine the areas of improper connection, and sever those connections.
Most infants and young children do well with this type of surgery. It may relieve symptoms or prevent them from developing in the first place. In children, teens, or adults who already suffered nerve damage, it can generally stabilize their level of function.
Physical therapy may be necessary following surgery, and ongoing follow-up will be necessary because TSC can re-occur. In fact, previous spinal surgery is a significant risk factor for acquired TSC.
A Tethered Spinal Cord Could Support a Medical Malpractice Case
In some cases, medical mistakes related to a tethered spinal cord could support a medical malpractice case. You may be able to recover compensation for your child if they experienced preventable pain and suffering or have permanent impairments because of:
- A missed diagnosis that delayed treatment
- Misdiagnosis and treatment for the wrong condition
- Mistakes during TSC repair surgery
- Other careless or negligent medical mistakes
To learn if you may have a case against the doctor or hospital, you should discuss your case with an attorney in your state who handles birth injury cases. They can explain your rights, identify the liable party or parties, and help you build a case. They can file all necessary claim paperwork and file a medical malpractice lawsuit if necessary in your case.
You will have a limited time to take legal action based on your state’s statute of limitations and its rules for tolling the statute of limitations for children. Your local medical malpractice attorney can help you understand the deadlines that apply based on the facts of your case.
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Talk to a Birth Injury Lawyer in Your State About Your Child’s TSC
If you believe your child suffered preventable pain, suffering, or injuries because of medical negligence, you may be eligible to hold their doctor or the hospital accountable and recover compensation to pay for their treatment and ongoing monitoring and cover related expenses. You will need to discuss your case with a local medical malpractice attorney to get started.
At Birth Injury Lawyers Group, a member of our team can help with your TSC birth injury case. Call us now at (800) 222-9529 to get started. You could be discussing your case with a local attorney later today.