From 1986 to 1991, 12 boys and 23 girls underwent surgery for lipomyelomeningocele removal. Of these patients 29 were 15 months old or younger (average age 3 months), while 6 were 4.5 to 19 years old (average age 10 years). Preoperative and postoperative urodynamic studies, including external urethral sphincter electromyography, were done on everyone. All 29 infants had a cutaneous lesion overlying the lower back and 14 had an abnormal neurological examination. Preoperative urodynamic studies were abnormal in 11 patients, consisting of an upper motor neuron lesion in 6, and a mixed upper and lower motor neuron lesion in 5. Postoperatively, 10 of 14 children with an abnormal neurological examination improved, while 9 of 11 with abnormal lower urinary tract function normalized. In 1 of 18 children (6%) with normal preoperative urodynamic studies detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia developed postoperatively. In all 6 older children urinary incontinence developed, and this led to the diagnosis. Everyone had an abnormal neurological examination and abnormal preoperative urodynamic studies. One child had a lower motor neuron lesion, and 5 had a mixed upper and lower motor neuron lesion. Postoperatively, the neurological examination improved in only 1 patient (16%), and the urological symptoms and urodynamic findings improved in another child. Lipomyelomeningocele has a progressive effect on lower spinal cord function because infants tend to present with fewer urinary manifestations and physical findings than older children. Individuals who escape early detection tend to have a more subtle cutaneous abnormality. As a result, older children are more likely to present with urological and neurological complaints. Surgical correction in infancy provides a degree of reversibility not seen in older children. It is imperative that early identification, evaluation and treatment be undertaken to prevent this progression and permanency of neurological changes and urinary dysfunction.
- spinal cord
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