How do motor and sensory symptoms differ between cauda equina syndrome (CES) and conus medullaris?

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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In cauda equina syndrome, the peripheral nerve fibers from the sacral segments of the cord, as well as various lumbar dorsal and ventral nerve roots, may also be involved. This results in an asymmetric and higher distribution of motor and sensory symptoms and signs in the lower extremities. Incontinence of bowel and bladder is not severe and develops late for the same reason.

In conus and epiconus lesions, the sacral region neurons (S2-S4) are destroyed. The destruction of these neurons leads to an early and more severe involvement of bowel, urinary bladder, and sexual dysfunction than seen in those with CES. In contrast, for the same reason, the motor and sensory symptoms in the lower extremities are often not very severe and only the distal parts of the limb musculature are involved.

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