What Your Doctor Wants You to Know About Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare, but very serious disorder that requires immediate treatment. It can occur in patients who have back pain caused by other medical conditions. If you’re a patient of a back doctor in Miami, ask him or her about whether you should be concerned about cauda equina syndrome, and which symptoms indicate a need for emergency care. spine - pain

What It Is

The lower spine, or the lumbar region, features a bundle of nerves called the cauda equina. It’s located just beneath the spinal cord. These nerves do the important job of providing motor function and sensory capabilities to the bladder and legs. Cauda equina syndrome occurs when the bundle of nerves becomes compressed. This disrupts sensation and motor control of the lower body.

What Causes It

Spinal stenosis is one of the possible causes of cauda equina syndrome. This disorder may also be the result of a spinal infection, tumor, or vertebral fracture. In most cases, a herniated disc of the lumbar region is the culprit.

Which Symptoms Occur

Emergency care is needed for cauda equina syndrome. It’s generally indicated by severe lower back pain and bladder dysfunction, such as the loss of bladder control or urinary retention. Other symptoms include:

  • The loss of sensation in both legs
  • Weakness and difficulty walking
  • Inhibition or loss of reflexes
  • Saddle anesthesia

Saddle anesthesia affects the areas of the body that would make contact with a saddle if you were to ride a horse. In these areas, cauda equina syndrome causes the inability to feel anything. If you don’t undergo emergency surgery to relieve the compression quickly enough, you could become permanently disabled. Among its potentially permanent complications, cauda equina syndrome can cause the loss of bladder control, impaired bowel control, loss of sexual sensation, and permanent paralysis.

How It’s Treated

The only treatment available for cauda equina syndrome is emergency decompression surgery. The goal of the spine surgery is to correct whatever anatomical problem is causing the pressure on the nerve bundle.

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