Tethering is assumed to be the primary cause of deterioration seen in children with transitional lipomyelomeningocele as they age. The inevitability of deterioration has led to recommendations for prophylactic interventions to stabilize or prevent further clinical deterioration.
Determine the frequency and patterns of functional deterioration observed after successful untethering in patients with transitional lipomyelomeningocele and compare functional outcomes with what is known regarding untreated patients.
Fifty patients having transitional LMMC, treated at a single institution and followed in a multidisciplinary clinic were retrospectively reviewed to determine their clinical status prior to untethering, and the time to development of new symptoms or signs following untethering.
82% of patients were diagnosed and 78% underwent untethering prior to one year of age. All patients had a cutaneous lumbosacral lipoma, 22 patients were considered normal at presentation and 28 showed abnormalities on clinical examination. Forty-nine patients were untethered successfully and all were available for follow-up ranging from 2 to 138 months (mean 39 months). Acute morbidity was limited to transient neurogenic bladder dysfunction and minor wound complications. Late clinical deterioration occurred in the majority of patients. Orthopedic and neurological deterioration occurred over the first 60 months following untethering and urological deterioration occurred thereafter.
Functional loss after untethering is common and the pattern of loss is likely a reflection of the ability to detect abnormalities in this infant population. Untethering does not usually result in permanent acute morbidity, and does not prevent longer-term functional deterioration. The ratio of asymptomatic to symptomatic patients at follow-up in this operative series is similar to age-matched historical series of untreated patients.