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J Urol. 2006 Oct;176(4 Pt 2):1826-9; discussion 1830.

Treatment of the occult tethered spinal cord for neuropathic bladder: results of sectioning the filum terminale.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Urology, James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University School of Medicine, 702 North Barnhill Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. pmetcalf@iupui.edu



Occult tethered cord syndrome applies to patients with signs and symptoms consistent with a caudal spinal cord malformation despite normal neuroimaging. Although several reports of successful surgical treatment exist, controversy remains with respect to patient selection and efficacy. We present a large series with excellent clinical followup, neuroimaging and urodynamic characterization.


We present our experience with 36 patients at a single institution with preoperative clinical findings, neuroimaging and urodynamics available. Postoperative outcomes were assessed clinically and with urodynamics. We determined predictive parameters to improve patient selection.


Approximately 0.04% of pediatric urology clinic visits resulted in neurosurgical referral for the potential of an occult tethered cord. They occurred after failure of a mean of 2 years of aggressive medical management. Daytime urinary incontinence was present in 83% of patients and 47% had encopresis. Preoperative urodynamics were markedly abnormal in all patients with mean bladder capacity 55% of expected capacity. Clinical improvement in urinary symptoms was seen in 72% of patients with resolution of incontinence in 42%. Bowel symptoms improved in 88% of cases, including resolution of encopresis in 53% within 3 months of surgery. Urodynamic improvements were demonstrated in 57% of cases. We were unable to determine preoperative factors that were more likely associated with surgical success.


In a highly select population with severe urinary and fecal dysfunction sectioning a normal-appearing filum terminale can result in significant improvement. We were unable to identify factors that may increase the chance of surgical success.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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