Comparison of section of filum terminale and non-neurosurgical management for urinary incontinence in patients with normal conus position and possible occult tethered cord syndrome

Paul Steinbok, Rajeev Kariyattil, Andrew E. MacNeily

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Patients with persistent urinary incontinence and a normal location of the conus on magnetic resonance imaging scans may have occult tethered cord syndrome (OTCS). We compare outcomes in such patients after filum section versus nonoperative treatment. METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of a consecutive series of children with refractory urinary incontinence and normal location of the conus who were offered section of the filum for treatment of possible OTCS. RESULTS: Eight children, aged 4.4 to 9.8 years, underwent filum section, with one child undergoing two such operations. Clinical urological improvement occurred in seven children at a mean follow-up period of 3.1 years, with improved urodynamic findings in four of the seven children tested postoperatively. Other non-urological back or lower limb abnormalities improved in five out of six children with such findings. None of the patients underwent additional urological operations after filum section. Seven children, aged 3.1 to 13.5 years, all of whom had abnormal urodynamic findings, did not undergo filum section. At a mean follow-up period of 3.3 years, two patients had urological improvement and three patients had undergone bilateral ureteric reimplantations. Other non-urological back and/or lower limb abnormalities were present in five patients and did not improve. One patient had the filum cut after 8 years and improved thereafter. CONCLUSION: Section of the filum in children with refractory urinary incontinence and OTCS may produce better urological outcomes than continued medical management. A definitive answer to the question of whether section of the filum is better than non-neurosurgical medical management for children with OTCS awaits the conclusion of a randomized controlled trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-555
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007



  • Filum terminale
  • Occult tethered cord syndrome
  • Surgery
  • Urinary incontinence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery

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