Cauda Equina Foundation, Inc. believes that patient education is the key to a living a higher quality of life when diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome. Cauda Equina Syndrome isn't well understood by healthcare providers, and the lack of research limites thier resources to learn and educate themselves. We are doing to work to research and educate both healthcare providers and patients to improve the quality of life and care for individuals living with Cauda Equina Syndrome. Click on a topic to learn more.
Cauda Equina Syndrome Definition and Basics
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a collection of neurological symptoms due to damage to the cauda equina, the spinal nerve roots in the lumbar spinal canal. The cauda equina sends and receives signals from the lower part of the body, the peripheral nervous system, and relays those signals to the spinal cord, the central nervous system.
Did you know that Cauda Equina Syndrome is not a spinal cord injury? It is a spinal nerve root injury. Damage to the cauda equina can be caused by compression (usually a herniated disk), infection, trauma, sheering, epidural steroid injections, epidurals, childbirth, cancer/tumors, autoimmune disorders, connective tissue disorders, inflammation, spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, severe scoliosis, adhesive arachnoiditis, tethered cord, and other unknown causes. Symptoms vary from person to person and by stage of diagnosis.
If you think you have Acute Cauda Equina Syndrome; Seek Emergency Evaluation as Cauda Equina Syndrome is a Medical Emergency.
Did you know that Cauda Equina Syndrome is misdiagnosed in MOST cases? The #1 reason CES is misdiagnosed is that there is a misconception that a patient must have saddle anesthesia and incontinence to have Cauda Equina Syndrome. This is WRONG!
Once a patient has saddle anesthesia and incontinence they are considered Complete Cauda Equina Syndrome or CES-C, in which case there is a very poor prognosis, even with treatment. Saddle anesthesia with incontinence is considered a White Flag Symptom; meaning surrender because the window of opportunity to reverse symptoms has most likely passed. Recovery is possible in a few patients, less than 30% of patients recover any bladder function once they are considered CES-C. The time to catch Cauda Equina Syndrome is in the Red Flag stage, Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome, CES-I, or High-Risk Cauda Equina Syndrome, CES-R.
However, if patients are treated within 48 hours of onset of symptoms while they are in the CES-R (High-Risk Cauda Equina Syndrome) or CES-I (Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome) their potential for recovery is Greatly improved; over 70% of these patients recover full bladder function.
Click here for the RED FLAG symptoms.
Click here to learn the differences between Acute Cauda Equina Syndrome, Chronic Cauda Equina Syndrome, and the different classifications of Cauda Equina Syndrome.
To avoid misdiagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome:
Complete a full neurological exam on ALL back pain patients, and remember that MRI is the Gold Standard for diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome.