What is cauda equina syndrome (CES)?

Updated: Jun 14, 2018
  • Author: Segun Toyin Dawodu, JD, MD, MS, MBA, LLM, FAAPMR, FAANEM; Chief Editor: Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, CPE, MHCM, FAAPL  more...
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Cauda equina syndrome refers to a characteristic pattern of neuromuscular and urogenital symptoms resulting from the simultaneous compression of multiple lumbosacral nerve roots below the level of the conus medullaris (see the image below). These symptoms include low back pain, sciatica (unilateral or, usually, bilateral), saddle sensory disturbances, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and variable lower extremity motor and sensory loss (see Clinical).

Although the lesion is technically involves nerve roots and represents a "peripheral" nerve injury, damage may be irreversible and cauda equina syndrome may be a surgical emergency (see Treatment). [1]

Illustration demonstrating an example of cauda equ Illustration demonstrating an example of cauda equina syndrome secondary to a spinal neoplasm

Lesions involving the termination of the spinal cord (conus medullaris) are not discussed in this article. Please see the article Spinal Cord Injuries.

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