Common Spine Disorders in Children

Although spine disorders in children are rare, of those that do occur, these are the most common:

  • Chiari malformation type 1. Downward displacement of some contents of the brain toward the spine. There are usually no symptoms. The disorder may be associated with syringomyelia.
  • Chiari malformation type 2. Downward displacement of the contents of the brain toward the spine. It is associated with multiple abnormalities of the brain, including myelomeningocele and hydrocephalus.
  • Dermal sinus. A small but deep opening in the skin overlaying the spine that may be attached to the spine and spinal cord. Usually located in the lower back, near the buttocks , the opening may lead to a tethered spinal cord or indicate recurrent meningitis. The disorder is treated by surgically removing the entire sinus tract.
  • Hydrocephalus. Abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain. Treatment may require diverting this fluid to other parts of the body to relieve pressure on the brain.
  • Lipomeningocele. A fatty mass that protrudes into and attaches to an incompletely developed spine.
  • Myelomeningocele. A type of spina bifida aperta, in which the underdeveloped spinal cord emerges through the vertebra and breaks through the skin. It is associated with Chiari malformation type 2.
  • Scoliosis. Abnormal curvature of the spine. The curvature may progress as the child grows. It may be present at birth (congenital) or develop during adolescence. Significant curvature may require corrective surgery.
  • Spina bifida. An incompletely formed vertebra that is typically more common in the lower back. The vertebra may contain normal nerves and the spinal cord, with only abnormal bones, or it may contain fat, nerves, and other tissue passing through the bony opening.
  • Spina bifida aperta. "Open" spina bifida. No skin covers the abnormality, so nerves, spinal cord, or fatty tissue is seen immediately at birth.
  • Spina bifida occulta. "Hidden" spina bifida. The spina bifida is not always obvious at birth because skin covers the abnormality.
  • Split cord malformation. Developmental abnormality in which the spinal cord is split in two for some length. The two "hemi" cords are separated by either bone or cartilage. The malformation often requires surgery as the child grows because the spinal cord gets "hung up" on the bone or cartilage partition, leading to a tethered cord (see below).
  • Syringomyelia/hydromyelia. Abnormal accumulation of fluid in the spinal cord that leads to pressure on normal spinal cord tissue. Treatment may entail diverting the fluid to other parts of the body.
  • Tethered cord. A spinal cord abnormally attached to surrounding tissue. The tethered cord is under tension and "stretch," leading to chronic injury to the cord. It may be tethered from a myelomengocele, lipomyelomeningcele, scarring from prior surgery, or other causes.

We can help

If your child has been diagnosed with a spine disorder, The Mount Sinai Health System can help. Our nationally recognized neurosurgeons are experts in treating spine disorders in children. To make an appointment, please call 1-800-MD-SINAI (800-697-4624). We are conveniently located in the Upper East Side of New York City. 


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Tel: 1-800-MD-SINAI (800-637-4624)