The condition known as tethered spinal cord (TSC) does differ from spina bifida. Many people associate TSC with spina bifida because babies and children with spina bifida often have spinal cords that remain tethered. At the same time, symptoms and signs of spina bifida can often look similar to a TSC. However, TSC also occurs on its own, unrelated to the neural tube defect.
In most cases of spinal cord tethering that occurs on its own without other abnormalities, prompt diagnosis, and surgical intervention can reverse any symptoms. Even when a diagnosis is not made until after nerve damage occurs, releasing the tether generally stabilizes the child’s condition. With spina bifida, releasing the tether is often not necessary because paralysis caused by this birth defect cannot be reversed.
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Spina Bifida Can Cause a TSC or a TSC-Like Condition
There are some unique distinctions of a tethered spinal cord differing from spina bifida. In some cases, babies who develop a neural tube defect that causes spina bifida can also develop a tethered spinal cord. In other cases, they have the same symptoms and signs of a tethered cord, but they occur because of other issues besides the spinal cord getting stretched during growth. This could include:
- Impaired blood flow to the spinal cord
- Compression of the spinal cord
- Congenital neuronal dysgenesis
- Other damage to the spinal cord
This is possible because of myelomeningoceles or lipomyelomeningoceles connected to the spinal cord or other issues related to the spina bifida. Unless diagnosed and treated with prenatal surgery, these children are generally born with complete, irreversible paralysis of the legs and never gain control of their bladder or bowels.
Prenatal diagnosis of these severe types of spina bifida is possible and common, and allow for prenatal surgery than can protect the spinal cord during gestation and birth. A surgery after birth may be able to repair the problems with the spinal cord and limit the impairment the child suffers.
Spina bifida occulta, on the other hand, often presents with few symptoms until later, when a true tethered spinal cord can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower body, among other symptoms. If treated promptly, these symptoms often disappear.
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Tethered Spinal Cords Occur Regularly Without Other Congenital Abnormalities
Another example of how a tethered spinal cord differs from spina bifida, a TSC can occur without spina bifida. There are many causes of a TSC, and the condition could occur during the development of an otherwise healthy child. The flexible string that connects the bottom of the spinal cord to the nearby tissues thickens and becomes inelastic, preventing the spinal cord from stretching and extending upward as the spinal column grows.
This presents either because of signs at birth or because of symptoms that appear later on as the child grows. Like the case with TSC in conjunction with spina bifida occulta, prompt treatment generally brings positive results. Surgery as an infant can prevent symptoms, or treatment, after symptoms appear, can often reverse them.
Ongoing monitoring is necessary to prevent reoccurrence. Spinal trauma and previous spinal surgery–including in children with spina bifida–are risk factors for developing or redeveloping a tethered spinal cord.
You May Have a Medical Malpractice Case if Your Child Has Spina Bifida or a Tethered Spinal Cord
There are several ways that medical negligence can cause newborns with a tethered spinal cord and/or spina bifida to suffer preventable pain and lasting impairments. Most forms of spina bifida are diagnosable during routine prenatal screening, and prenatal surgery may limit the lifelong impairments the child endures. Missing this diagnosis prenatally could dramatically alter the child’s life.
At the same time, missing a TSC diagnosis, misdiagnosing the child, or failing to take quick action to repair the tether could lead to pain and suffering that is preventable. Medical mistakes during the treatment of either condition could also lead to additional pain and impairment.
If you believe you may have a birth injury case related to a TSC or spina bifida, you should discuss your case with an attorney in your state. A birth injury lawyer can help you:
- Understand your rights
- Identify the liable parties
- Prove medical negligence and malpractice
- Navigate the claims process
- Pursue compensation for your child’s treatment, pain and suffering, and related costs
You only have a limited time to take action in this type of case. Each state has its own rules for setting a statute of limitations and tolling that statute of limitations for birth injury cases. Your attorney can also explain the deadlines that apply in your case and ensure you meet them.
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Talk to a Birth Injury Attorney Near You Today
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help you connect with a lawyer in your state who handles this type of case regularly. They will review your case for free and help you understand your options. Call (800) 222-9529 now to get started.