Filum terminale lipomas—the role of intraoperative neuromonitoring

Harishchandra Lalgudi Srinivasan, Pablo Valdes-Barrera, Ariel Agur, Jehuda Soleman, Margaret Ekstein, Akiva Korn, Irina Vendrov, Jonathan Roth, Shlomi Constantini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Filum terminale lipomas (FTL) represent a sub-type of spinal lipomas, where there is fatty infiltration of the filum. It becomes a surgical entity when it manifests as clinical or radiological tethered cord syndrome. Intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) has been suggested as a valuable tool in children for tethered cord surgeries. FTL is distinct and cannot be compared with complex tethered cord syndrome (TCS). Untethering an FTL is a relatively straightforward microsurgical exercise, usually based on anatomical findings. Neurological morbidity in FTL untethering is extremely low. The necessity of IONM in FTL has not been evaluated. The objective of this study was to identify the role of IONM in untethering an FTL Methods: Available electronic data and case files were interrogated to identify children (0–18 years) who underwent an untethering of FTL between 2008 and 2019. We had a shift in our policy and tried to use IONM as often as possible in all tethered cord surgery from 2014. All children were categorised under ‘IONM implemented’ or ‘no IONM’ group. Outcomes analysed were as follows: (1) Clinical status on short-term and long-term follow-up, (2) alteration of surgical course by IONM and (3) complications specifically associated with IONM Results: Among 80 children included in this study, IONM was implemented in 37 children and 43 children underwent untethering without IONM. 32.5% of children were ‘syndromic’. Seventy-five percent of children were under age 3 years during surgery. Both groups (No IONM vs. IONM implemented) were well matched in most variables. Majority of ‘no IONM’ surgeries were performed prior to 2014. There was no neurological morbidity in the entire cohort. Mean duration of follow-up was 49.10 (± 33.67) months. Short-term and long-term clinical status remained stable in both cohorts. In 16 children, the filum was stimulated. Based on our protocol, majority had a negative response. One child showed a positive response, contradicted by thorough microscopic inspection. Despite a positive response, the filum was untethered. IONM was not associated with any complication in this study. Conclusion: FTL untethering is an inherently low-risk microsurgery in experienced hands with rarely reported neurological morbidity. IONM may not be required for all FTL and may be used more judiciously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-939
Number of pages9
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • EMG
  • Fatty filum
  • Filar lipoma
  • Intraoperative neuromonitoring
  • MEP
  • Spina bifida occulta
  • TCS


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