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Spine J. 2004 Jan-Feb;4(1):116-9.

Diastematomyelia presenting as progressive weakness in an adult after spinal fusion for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Diastematomyelia is uncommon and rarely presents in adulthood. This report draws attention to the fact that patients who underwent spinal fusion for deformity before the widespread use of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may have unrecognized spinal cord abnormalities. This should be considered if revision surgery is contemplated.


This case report focuses on the late presentation of lower-extremity weakness in a 44-year-old woman with a split cord malformation (diplomyelia), diastematomyelia and tethered cord syndrome.



The patient underwent instrumented posterior spinal fusion with a Harrington rod as a child for progressive thoracolumbar scoliosis. As an adult, she developed paraparesis after a traumatic event. The patient underwent decompressive laminectomy, subtotal resection of the old fusion mass and resection of the osseous septum. Postoperatively, an anterior spinal fluid leak in the lower thoracic region required repeated fascial grafting, resection of a pseudomeningocele and reverse left latissimus dorsi flap transfer. The leak was controlled, and the patient had near complete resolution of her paraparesis 1 year after her surgery.


The case described herein is unusual in that patients with diplomyelia and diastematomyelia rarely are symptomatic in adulthood. However, trauma may precipitate the onset of neurologic symptoms. This patient underwent spinal surgeries to address deformity, pain and progressive lower-extremity weakness. Preoperative CT and MRI studies showed a split cord malformation and diastematomyelia at L1-L2 with spinal stenosis and tethering of both hemicords.


Progressive weakness without any previous neurologic deficit or neurocutaneous stigmas of an underlying spinal cord abnormality may develop in the adult with unrecognized diastemotomyelia. This case demonstrates that a thorough preoperative workup of patients with complex spinal deformities is imperative.

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