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Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) occurs when the spinal nerve roots in the lumbar spinal canal (cauda equina) are damaged. This causes neurological symptoms, as the cauda equina is responsible for sending and receiving signals to and from the peripheral nervous system and relaying them to the central nervous system. 

What are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

Symptoms can vary in severity, and they can also be progressive. They include:

  • Severe pain in the lower back
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Sensory loss in one or both legs
  • Motor weakness in one or both legs
  • Pain in one or both legs
  • Loss of reflexes in the extremities
  • Onset of sexual dysfunction
  • Saddle anesthesia
  • Sensory abnormalities in the rectum and bladder

It is important that one seeks treatment. If they do not, complications may arise, including paralysis and incontinence. 

What causes cauda equina syndrome?

The most common cause for CES is a herniated disc in the lumbar region. There are a variety of other causes, including spinal anesthesia, spinal hemorrhages, lumbar spinal stenosis, violent lower back injuries, lesions and tumors on the spine, birth abnormalities, infections or inflammation of the spine, spinal arteriovenous malformations, and postoperative lumbar spinal surgery complications. 

How is cauda equina syndrome diagnosed?

This syndrome is often difficult to diagnose or is misdiagnosed. In order to obtain the correct diagnosis, doctors will look at medical history and perform tests. They may use an MRI or myelogram. 

What are the treatments for cauda equina syndrome?

Surgery is used for treatment, and it should be done as soon as possible. Other treatments may be required after surgery, including drug therapy, in order to regain bladder and bowel function. 

Where can I find out more about cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome Articles