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Cauda Equina Syndrome

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Updated October 23, 2007

Definition:

What is cauda equina syndrome?
Cauda equina syndrome is a condition caused by compression of the spinal nerves in the lowest region of the spinal canal (lumbar spine). Most cases of nerve compression are not emergencies, but patients with cauda equina syndrome require urgent diagnosis for proper treatment.

What are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?
Cauda equine syndrome causes symptoms due to the compression of the spinal nerves. The symptoms may vary in different patients in the type and the intensity. Patients with any symptoms of cauda equina should seek medical attention to determine if there is an emergency situation:

  • Difficultly controlling the bowel and/or bladder
  • Numbness around the genitals
  • Progressive numbness or weakness of the legs
What causes cauda equina syndrome?
Anything that presses on the spinal nerves can cause cauda equina syndrome. These include problems such as:
    • Herniated discs
    • Spinal tumors
    • Spinal infections
    • Traumatic injuries and fractures
What is the treatment of cauda equina syndrome?
Cauda equina syndrome can become permanent if the symptoms are not properly addressed. Patients who have cauda equina may require emergency surgical treatment in order to relieve pressure on the affected nerves.
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