Potential higher risk of tethered spinal cord in children after prenatal surgery for myelomeningocele: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Introduction We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis on the incidence of secondary tethered spinal cord (TSC) between prenatal and postnatal closure in patients with MMC. The objectives was to understand the incidence of secondary TSC after prenatal surgery for MMC compared to postnatal surgery for MMC. Material and methods On May 4, 2023, a systematic search was conducted in Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Library to gather relevant data. Primary studies focusing on repair type, lesion level, and TSC were included, while non-English or non-Dutch reports, case reports, conference abstracts, editorials, letters, comments, and animal studies were excluded. Two reviewers assessed the included studies for bias risk, following PRISMA guidelines. TSC frequency in MMC closure types was determined, and the relationship between TSC occurrence and closure technique was analyzed using relative risk and Fisher's exact test. Subgroup analysis revealed relative risk differences based on study designs and follow-up periods. A total of ten studies, involving 2,724 patients, were assessed. Among them, 2,293 patients underwent postnatal closure, while 431 received prenatal closure for the MMC defect. In the prenatal closure group, TSC occurred in 21.6% (n = 93), compared to 18.8% (n = 432) in the postnatal closure group. The relative risk (RR) of TSC in patients with prenatal MMC closure versus postnatal MMC closure was 1.145 (95%CI 0.939 to 1.398). Fisher's exact test indicated a statistically non-significant association (p = 0.106) between TSC and closure technique. When considering only RCT and controlled cohort studies, the overall RR for TSC was 1.308 (95%CI 1.007 to 1.698) with a non-significant association (p = .053). For studies focusing on children up until early puberty (maximum 12 years follow-up), the RR for tethering was 1.104 (95%CI 0.876 to 1.391), with a non-significant association (p = 0.409). Conclusion and discussion This review found no significant increase in relative risk of TSC between prenatal and postnatal closure in MMC patients, but a trend of increased TSC in the prenatal group. More longterm data on TSC after fetal closure is needed for better counseling and outcomes in MMC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0287175
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6 JUNE
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023

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