Early de-tethering: analysis of urological and clinical consequences in a series of 40 children



Early de-tethering procedures are performed on spinal dysraphisms to prevent neuro-urological deterioration caused by growth. Partial lipoma removal may cause delayed deterioration by re-tethering, while complete removal may increase the risk of postoperative worsening. The present study evaluates the risk of postoperative deterioration and the protective potential of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IOM), with a special reference to the conus lipomas treated with the radical approach.


Forty toddlers (< 24 months) underwent complete perioperative neurological and urological assessment, including urodynamic study (UDS). The dysraphisms were subgrouped according to Pang’s classification. IOM was applied in all patients: transcranial motor evoked potentials (tMep) combined with mapping were recorded in all cases while bulbocavernosus reflex (BCR) was evaluable just in 7 cases.


At preoperative evaluation, 11 children already had UDS impairment and 2 had motor disturbances before neurosurgery. At 1-month follow-up, preoperative motor disturbances were stable, 7/11 UDS alterations normalized, and the remaining 4 were stable. At 6-month follow-up, all motor deficits and 8/11 preoperative UDS alterations had improved. Unfortunately, 7 children with previously normal UDS experienced a new impairment after surgery: 2/7 normalized while 5/7 did not recover. This postoperative permanent urodynamic impairment occurred in 4 chaotic lipoma (CLchaos) and in one terminal myelocystocele (TMC) that means a surgical deterioration rate of 22% for the high risk cases.


This small highly selected series confirms that early de-tethering may stop or revert the spontaneous neuro-urological deterioration: in fact, preoperative UDS impairment was frequent (27.5%) and improved in all the low surgical risk cases (limited dorsal myeloschisis, filar, transitional and dorsal lipomas). On the contrary, in CLchaos and TMC, early de-tethering was unable to revert preoperative UDS impairment, and radical surgery carried a high risk of new neuro-urological deterioration directly caused by the operation. In our experience, IOM had a protective role for motor functions, while it was less effective for the neuro-urological ones, probably due to the anesthesiology regimens applied. In conclusion, among the dysraphisms, CLchoas proved to be the worst enemy that often camouflages at MRI. Affording it without all possible IOM weapons carries a high risk to harm the patient.

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Correspondence to Laura Grazia Valentini.

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Valentini, L.G., Babini, M., Cordella, R. et al. Early de-tethering: analysis of urological and clinical consequences in a series of 40 children. Childs Nerv Syst 37, 941–949 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-020-04838-6

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  • Children
  • Intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring
  • Neurosurgery
  • Tethered cord
  • Urology