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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Aftermath of Whiplash
April 2001

Q. My wife suffered whiplash as a result of an auto/truck accident in 1995. Since then she has been diagnosed with tethered cord syndrome. She has always been very active and did physical work on her job. Shortly after the accident she has suffered great pain in the lower extremities and now has bladder control problems. Has the whiplash caused the symptoms to appear or can the resulting pain and loss of control be attributed to the accident? Your opinion will be appreciated.

A. Tethered Cord Syndrome consists of an abnormally low lying terminal portions of the spinal cord (in the low back) tethered by a thickened ending of the spinal cord. It is usually a congenital problem (present at birth) and may be associated with such disorders as spinal bifida. Symptoms may include low back pain radiating to the legs, urinary complaints, leg weakness and sexual dysfunction. The adult variant of this syndrome may not be as rare as once thought.

It is difficult to say in your wife's case whether her car accident was causually related to the worsening of her symptoms, but it sounds like the worsening was temporally related. Therefore, it is possible that the accident flared her condition. On the other hand, however, it would be unlikely that a cervical (neck) whiplash would flare up a tethered cord syndrome. A specialist such as a neurologist or neurosurgeon should be consulted if not done already.

Good Luck.

Ref: SOURCE: Acta Neurochir (Wien) 2000;142(10):1111-5. [MEDLINE record in process] CITATION IDS: PMID: 11129532 UI: No Cit. ID assigned

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