The Vault

spine surgeon, spine doctor
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Cauda Equina Syndrome: An Overview

Cauda-Equina, spine doctor, spine surgery

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a highly urgent situation requiring immediate medical care. CES is the result of inflammation or compression in the lower section of the spinal cord. The condition’s name comes from the horse-tail like appearance of the nerves that extend down into the legs and control movement and sensation in the lower extremities. CES in an infrequent occurrence in adults, and even more rare in children.

CES has several different causes, such as:

  • Lumbar Disc Herniation
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
  • Spinal infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Birth defects (children)
  • Spinal Tumor
  • Spinal canal inflammation
  • Trauma from an auto accident or penetration wound
  • Complications after lumbar surgery

Symptoms of CES can occur acutely, or develop gradually over the course of weeks or months. Those to be aware of include:

  • Severe low back pain and weakness
  • Reduction in or loss of bladder and bowel control, and sexual problems
  • Changes in sensation in the lower extremities
  • Muscle weakness in one or both legs
  • Stabbing or sharp pain in the legs
  • Numbness in the legs and feet
  • A dull, steady ache that spreads across the pelvis

Any individual experiencing a combination of the conditions listed above needs to seek prompt medical If CES treatment is delayed, it could lead to permanent damage.

A physician diagnoses CES by performing a thorough review of a person’s medical history and current symptoms, along with conducting a specific physical examination. Results from an MRI, myelogram and CT scan will help to confirm the findings.

Treatment for CES involves surgical intervention within 8 hours of the appearance of symptoms when possible. Lumbar laminectomy is the technique of choice, but a lumbar discectomy can also be considered based on the individual case. People experiencing spinal inflammation are started on high-level doses of corticosteroids to help control swelling.

CES is a severe medical condition, and treatment needs to be pursued quickly to provide the best opportunity of restoring function.

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