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Transverse myelitis (TM) is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation to both sides of a section of the spinal cord.

Damage from inflammation can interrupt communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the body. The part of the spinal cord that is damaged by TM determines which areas of the body may be affected.

Symptoms of TM typically include a loss of spinal cord function over several hours to several weeks and in severe cases results in paralysis, bowel dysfunction and bladder dysfunction. Some children experience sudden arm or leg weakness, pain in the lower back, abnormal numbness, tingling, burning or cold sensations. Some children with TM have permanent impairments that affect their daily activities and mobility.

An estimated 1,400 new cases of TM are diagnosed each year and can affect children of any age, gender or race. Similar to other autoimmune diseases, TM causes a child's immune system to attack their own nerves. Doctors do not yet know its exact cause but believe it may be triggered by some viral or bacterial infections.

Our Approach to Treating Transverse Myelitis

The multidisciplinary team at Shriners Children's works together to create a care plan for patients affected by TM. Your child will initially see our pediatric neurologist and pediatric intensive care unit doctors who will stabilize and treat the symptoms

Once they begin to improve, patients benefit greatly from the early initiation of physical therapy and occupational therapy. The ability to recoup from weakness varies with every child, but at Shriners Children’s we believe that with therapy the ability to recover improves significantly. Our trusted team of professionals will work together to design a unique care plan for each child that will lead to their highest level of independence and activity.

Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.

Transverse Myelitis – Know What to Look For

The onset of transverse myelitis is sudden and has the potential to evolve over several hours to days, but can also progress as long as one or two weeks. Because it also has the potential to affect the muscles that control breathing, it is important that you seek care immediately if your child is experiencing any of the symptoms below.

  • Sudden arm or leg weakness.
  • Sudden pain in the lower back.
  • Shooting pain down the legs or arms, chest or abdomen.
  • Abnormal sensations, such as numbness, tingling, burning and coldness.
  • Bladder and bowel problems, including the need to urinate more frequently, incontinence, or difficulty urinating and constipation.
The care provided by Shriners Children’s for my son’s transverse myelitis far exceeds care we have received anywhere else. The physicians and support staff are knowledgeable and caring.
Barbara, Philadelphia
female therapist and male patient working with basketball during therapy session

Restoring Each Child to Reach Their Full Potential

We understand that every child’s needs are unique during the healing process. Our pediatric rehabilitation services team designs plans to meet your child’s physical, emotional, social, developmental and educational needs.

Services We Provide

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Neurology Services

Physicians at Shriners Children's can provide early diagnosis, intervention and treatment for neurological disorders as well as ongoing care for a neurological component of a child's condition.

Nutritional Services

Our clinical dietitians work closely with your child's care team to provide the best nutrition plan for both inpatients and outpatients. Meeting your child's nutritional needs prior to and after surgery is optimal for his or her recovery.

Inpatient Bowel Management

Patients with severe constipation or who have not achieved success in outpatient bowel management can benefit from out intensive inpatient program tailored to the unique needs of each patient and family.

Outpatient Bowel Management

Shriners Children's bowel management care gives children with colorectal issues the ability to be more active, social, happy and independent. Our program is designed with your child in mind.

Care Management

The care management team at Shriners Children's consists of registered nurses and social workers who act as resources for families throughout their plan of care.

Child Life Services

Child life professionals at Shriners Children’s take pride in focusing on the "above and beyond" aspects of medical care for our patients. From procedure support to camps, they are ready to advocate for your family.

Next Steps

Request an Appointment

Families and caregivers seeking treatment should start by contacting us for an appointment.

Log in to the Patient Portal

Parents and guardians of existing patients can email, request records, schedule appointments and more.

Refer a Patient

Physicians and healthcare providers can request appointments, start transfers or contact us with questions.