Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder that usually is a surgical emergency.
At about the level of the waist, the spinal cord splits into a number of smaller nerve roots called cauda equina (Latin for horse’s tail as it has the appearance of a horseâ€™s tail). They send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs.
Cauda Equine Syndrome is caused by something compressing the nerve roots below the level of the spinal cord.
If untreated, the condition will eventually cause complete paralysis below the waist.
Cauda Equine Syndrome generally requires urgent surgical treatment. The longer the compression continues, the more likely there is to be long term neurological damage. Studies suggest that in 50% of cases it will be too late after the first 4 to 6 hours of a severe central disc prolapse resulting in complete Cauda Equine Syndrome. In those cases there is only a very small window of opportunity in which to refer a patient to hospital, confirm the diagnosis by MRI scan and then carry out a surgical decompression.
Symptoms Of Cauda Equina
The symptoms of Cauda Equine Syndrome include:-
- Severe Low back pain
- Pain in one leg or both legs but starts in the buttocks and travels down the back of the thighs and legs (sometimes called saddle anaesthesia)
- Numbness in the groin
- Problems with the Bowel or bladder disturbance such as difficulty passing urine or faeces or incontinence.
- Pain, numbness, orÂ weaknessÂ in one or both legs for example that causes you to stumble or have trouble getting up from a chair.
- Reduced or absent reflexes in the lower extremities
- Sexual dysfunction that comes on suddenly
The condition can arise gradually, over the course of several months, or very suddenly, over the space of a few hours. Most commonly, cauda equina syndrome arises and progresses over the course of a few days or a couple of weeks.
Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome
- Traumatic injury;
- Slipped or prolapsed discs;
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal);
- Spinal tumours;
- Inflammatory conditions;
- Infectious conditions;
- A birth defect such as an abnormal connection between blood vessels
- As a result of medical treatment such as surgery.