Cauda Equina Syndrome

Spring 2021 By Jane Johnson | Clinical Lead Physiotherapist at PAM Physio Solutions for OH Today Magazine
The cauda equina has five main functions involving the lower limbs, bowel and genitourinary system. Compression of the cauda equina affects these functions.

The group of nerves at the very end of the spinal cord are termed the cauda equina.

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition that affects these nerves and due to the potential for this condition to result in devastating disability, is described as a ‘spine emergency’ by the British Association of Spinal Surgeons. It is often described as being a ‘rare’ condition because it is estimated to affect fewer than 1 in 2000 patients with severe low back pain, 6-10 people per million of the population.

The cauda equina has five main functions involving the lower limbs, bowel and genitourinary system. Compression of the cauda equina affects these functions.

The cauda equina provides:

  • Innervation to the lower limbs
  • Innervation to the anal sphincter
  • Innervation to the urinary sphincter
  • Innervation to the skin around the genitals and the bottom
  • Sexual function

In their literature review of cauda equina syndrome, Fraser, Roberts and Murphy (2009) identified that in 45% of cases pressure to the cauda equina came from a disc. However, pressure may be from other sources such as inflammation or a tumor.

The cauda equina can be compressed in scenarios such as:

  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Trauma such as spinal fracture
  • Spinal mass
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Trauma such as surgery

Read more here: OH Today

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