Cauda Equina Syndrome

The cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder of the spine that affects the bundle of nerve roots called the cauda equina, which is located at the lumbar end of the spinal cord.  It is considered a surgical emergency.  The cauda equina’s nerve rootsare considered an extension of the brain, sending out and receiving messages to and from the lower limbs and the pelvic organs.  The cauda equina syndrome happens when these nerve roots are compressed, cutting off movement and sensation to the lower extremities and pelvis.  Those nerve roots that control the function of the bowel and bladder are especially prone to damage.

If patients fail to get immediate treatment when they have the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, they could have permanent bowel and bladder dysfunction and paralysis.  Sexual function can be lost forever and patients could have other problems.  Even with immediate treatment, some function may always be lost.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

The main causes of cauda equina syndrome include having a herniated disk, having a tumor, infection, fracture or narrowing of the spinal cord that damages the delicate nerve segments that come down from the spinal cord like a horse’s tail.

Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome may be difficult to diagnose; this is a problem when prompt diagnosis makes a big difference in recovery. Symptoms vary over time and the full condition evolves slowly.  You should contact a doctor or emergency room if you have bowel or bladder dysfunction, such as being unable to retain your urine or you retain it too much.  You can have progressive or severe difficulties in the lower extremities, including a loss of sensation between the legs, altered sensation between the legs and over the buttocks, in the inner thighs, the back of the legs and in the heels or feet.

The doctor will diagnose cauda equina syndrome by taking a history of your symptoms and by doing a thorough physical examination.  He or she will order some diagnostic imaging studies including a CT of the lumbar spine or a CT scan of the lumbar spine and pelvis.

In the physical examination, the doctor will check how stable the legs and pelvis are as well as the strength and reflexes of the muscles.  He or she will note that you have difficulty with standing, sitting, walking on your heels and standing on your tiptoes.  He or she will check the tone and numbness of the anal muscles.  Blood tests are possible.

If the doctor determines that you have cauda equina syndrome, urgent surgery may be necessary to remove whatever material is pressing on the nerves.  The surgery can make sure that whatever is pushing on the nerves is taken away before permanent damage ensues.

Surgery may not completely reverse some of the damage done by the blockage that affected the nerves.  If you have residual cauda equina syndrome, you need to consider getting aid from an occupational therapist, social worker, sex therapist or continence advisor.  Allow a family member to help you with those things that are more difficult.  Learn all you can about coping with the disorder.  There are online cauda equina support groups that can help you.

A certain degree of bowel and bladder function is automatic but those parts that are under voluntary control may be lost forever if you have cauda equina syndrome.  You may not have knowledge of when you have to move your bowels or urinate.  You may not be able to eliminate waste the normal way.

You may need to empty the bladder with a catheter 3-4 times per day.  Drink fluids to stay hydrated and keep up with hygeine so you don’t get too many bladder infections.  Check for stool on a regular basis and use gloved hands to clear the bowels from the rectum.  Some people use glycerin suppositories or enemas to empty the bowels.  Use protective garments to prevent leakages.  For Detail Visit: Family Doctor Negligence Compensation Claim



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