What Is Cauda Equina Syndrome? An Explanation From the Spine Experts in Freehold & Monroe Township, NJ
Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency. This serious but relatively rare condition occurs when the bundle of nerve roots (cauda equina) at the lower (lumbar) end of the spinal cord becomes compressed. Possible sources of the pressure include a lumbar herniated disc, spinal narrowing (stenosis), or a spinal fracture, infection, inflammation, or tumor.
What Are the Signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome?
An extension of the brain, the cauda equina transmits messages to and from the pelvic organs and legs. Therefore, cauda equina syndrome can cut off sensation and movement in the “saddle region” (the area of the body that sits on a saddle), resulting in symptoms such as:
- Severe low back pain
- Muscle weakness, loss of sensation, loss of reflexes, or pain in one or both legs
- Saddle anesthesia (loss of sensation)
- Urinary incontinence or retention
- Bowel incontinence
- Loss of sexual sensation
These symptoms are red flags that warrant emergency medical attention. If cauda equina syndrome is not addressed immediately, permanent function loss may result.
How Is Cauda Equina Syndrome Treated?
In most cases, prompt surgical decompression is required. The goal is to reduce or eliminate the pressure on the cauda equina and prevent it from progressing to the point that the resulting damage is irreversible. One option may be a lumbar laminectomy, in which a surgeon creates space for the compressed nerves by removing the lamina, which is the back part of a vertebra that covers the spinal canal. Another option may be a lumbar microdiscectomy, in which a surgeon removes a portion of a herniated disc that is pressing on the cauda equina.
If you would like to learn more about cauda equina syndrome and how it is treated, contact Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute to request a consultation with a spine specialist at our office in Freehold or Monroe Township, NJ.