Friday, July 30, 2010

MRI Update/What is a Tethered Cord Anyway?

For those of you who are wondering, the MRI went fine. The boy wasn't sure about taking the medicine that would mean he wouldn't remember much or care about the procedure, but in the end he decided to go for it. He became very drowsy and seemingly content within 20 minutes. The procedure went just fine although it took quite awhile to get the anesthesia out of his system and the poor kid threw up several times before beginning to get back to normal. Not to worry though, he asked for his promised Lego toys and a cheeseburger before the night was through!

As to tethered cord, thanks to Children's Hospital Boston for this excellent description: 

As a human embryo develops, the spinal cord starts out as a flat plate of cells on the surface of the embryo. This plate later rolls into a tube and becomes surrounded by a tough covering called the dura, then muscle and bone, which form later in the process. During fetal development, the spine lengthens faster than the spinal cord, so that the lower end of the spinal cord ends up at the level of the second or third vertebrae in the lower back. 

If all goes smoothly, the cord grows so it can move up and down freely in a channel within the protective bones of the spine. But sometimes the spinal cord becomes attached, or tethered, to the surrounding tissue, usually at the base of the back. If this happens, the cord will become tight and stretched as the child grows, leading to symptoms of nerve damage, such as weakness or numbness in the legs, back pain, and trouble controlling the bladder or bowels.

If the syndrome is associated with myelodysplasia, it will usually be repaired at the same time as the neural tube defect. It can also be caused by a spinal lipoma (fatty deposit in and around the spinal cord), injury, tumor or (most commonly) by a fatty or tight filum (the filament of tissue that extends from the lower end of the spinal cord). In these cases, a child may not develop symptoms until they hit a growth spurt later in life. Surgery to release the spinal cord and allow it to move freely is the recommended treatment for a tethered cord that is causing symptoms. In fatty or tight filum cases, this surgery is relatively quick and straightforward.
And so now we wait. Apparently it should take about 3-5 business days (sometime next week maybe?) to get the MRI back and read by the pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Monica Wehby who is apparently great and OPB just did a story on her -- click on her name to read all about her!


  1. I found your blog while doing more research on Dr. Wehby. Just 4 days ago she did a Chiari decompression and lysis of filum (release of tethered cord) on our 4 yo. He went home the next day and now our biggest concern is keeping him still long enough to heal well. I hope all turns out well for your little one.

  2. Momma Richman - so glad you found the blog and apparently Dr. Wehby. We are still waiting on our results. How did you all find out about the Chiari decompression and lysis of filum... need so young? Do you live in PDX?

  3. We had the surgery and it went well. He is getting stronger every day.