Cauda Equina Syndrome

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Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is an emergency condition characterized by persistent and severe low back pain. Although the condition can occur with children exhibiting spinal birth defects, CES is most common in adults. Despite cauda equina syndrome being a rare spine condition, it’s vital that if symptoms arise, treatment is sought as soon as possible.

Causes & Symptoms

Cauda equina syndrome occurs from compression of the bundle of spinal nerves (cauda equina) at the end of the spinal cord (lower back and hip region). If not treated promptly, it can lead to permanent paralysis of the legs, bowel, bladder and may result in sexual problems.

CES is often caused by a herniated disk, tumor, infection, fracture or narrowing of the spinal canal.

The most pronounced symptom of CES is persistent low back pain. Additional symptoms include:

  • Numbness or an “altered sensation” in the inner thighs and buttocks
  • Weakness or pain in the legs
  • Inability of the bowel and bladder to function properly
  • Dysfunction in sexual ability

Since symptoms vary and may not develop quickly, CES can be difficult to diagnose—a troublesome predicament since early intervention is key in preventing permanent side effects from occurring. For this reason, it’s always best to consult with your OrthoAspen physician if you have any of the symptoms listed above—regardless of the severity.

Diagnosis

At OrthoAspen, we work to find the most expedient and effective methods for treating spine-related conditions. We’re dedicated to returning our patients to the active lifestyle they enjoy—safely and with a full recovery. To properly diagnose cauda equina syndrome your OrthoAsen physician will go over a thorough medical history and physical examination. Imaging studies such as a CT, MRI and a myelogram (spinal canal X-ray using contrast dye) are ordered for precision diagnosis and confirmation of the condition.

Treatment

Optimally, cauda equina syndrome treatment should be applied within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to prevent permanent damage.

Surgery is required to remove structures (tumors or ruptured discs) compressing the cauda equina. Your OrthoAspen surgeon will prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation and antibiotics to treat any infections.

It’s important to understand that cauda equina syndrome may cause some permanent dysfunction despite treatment. Family cooperation and professional assistance may be sought to deal with individual necessities.

No matter what outcome occurs as a result of a CES diagnosis, our OrthoAspen physicians are here to help patients and their families navigate through every step of the process.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of cauda equina syndrome, please click here to request an appointment, or call us immediately at 970-544-1289.

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Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
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1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
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