What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?


The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves at the lower end (lumbar region) of the spinal cord that transmits messages from the brain to the pelvic organs and lower limbs. Cauda equina syndrome (also referred to simply as CES) is a rare but serious disorder that is usually considered a surgical emergency.

A 2013 study stated that while cauda equina syndrome has a “ low incidence in the population, at around 1 case per 33000 to 1 case per 100000 inhabitants, its sequelae still generate high public health costs.” People who develop cauda equina syndrome may experience bowel and bladder control issues as well as difficulties walking.

When a person suffers from cauda equina syndrome, a proper diagnosis is necessary to get the correct treatment. A delay in diagnosis and treatment could potentially prove to be fatal.

Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome could develop for many reasons. A 2011 study published in the European Spine Journal reported that cauda equina syndrome occurs most frequently after a central lumbar disc herniation, sequestration, or prolapse.

Some common causes of cauda equina syndrome include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Abnormal malignant growth such as tumor or neoplasm
  • Disc herniation
  • Traumatic injury to the back
  • Spinal lesion
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal inflammation, infection, fracture, or hemorrhage
  • Spinal canal narrowing
  • Complications arising from spinal block or epidural anesthesia
  • Surgical complications
  • Trauma such as a fracture of the lumbar spine (lower back)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis affecting large joints and the spine)
  • Paget’s disease (bone disease involving old tissue being replaced with new tissue)
  • Gunshot or stab wound
  • Osteoporosis-associated vertebral fracture
  • Congenital disability
  • Epidural hematoma-related nerve damage
  • Complication of spinal manipulation
  • Lumbar spine subluxation (partial dislocation)
  • Tumors
  • Improperly positioned screws in the spine
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Continuous spinal anesthesia
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) relating to anticoagulant medications

Many cauda equina syndrome arise after an impact or other trauma to the person’s spine, but medical errors are also a potential cause.

What are some common symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The most common symptom of cauda equina syndrome is usually intense pain in a person’s back. Some people can also experience pain in their legs, feet, buttocks, or pelvic area.

In some cases, victims might only experience weakness in these areas of their body. There may be an absence of an Achilles (ankle) reflex in both ankles.

Some people with cauda equina syndrome may have difficulty walking. Others could even develop paraplegia because of the syndrome.

Cauda equina syndrome can also cause bowel and bladder dysfunction. The disorder could also lead to possible sexual dysfunction.

Cauda Equina Syndrome Risk Factors

Men are more likely to develop cauda equina syndrome than women. The disorder is also more likely to affect people over 35 years of age. African American men and women have lower rates of cauda equina syndrome than other ethnic groups.

People are also at higher risk when they suffer back trauma. In general, people with jobs requiring frequent heavy lifting are at greater risk of developing cauda equina syndrome.

How is Cauda Equina Syndrome Treated?

In most cases, surgery will be needed to address cauda equina syndrome. The procedure usually needs to be performed as soon as symptoms appear. Anything after 48 hours might be too late.

When a tumor causes cauda equina syndrome, treatment may also involve possible chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Treatment could also include physical therapy and/or antibiotics.

When cauda equina syndrome treatment is successful, a person might be forced to deal with a variety of long-term symptoms. For example, a person may not regain full control of their spinal column and could still have their bowel and bladder control impaired. Urinary catheters may be required for some people, while others might need to follow a regular regimen to prevent possible urinary tract infections.

Contact a New York Cauda Equina Syndrome Lawyer Today

Did you or your loved one contract cauda equina syndrome as the result of a medical professional’s negligence? Choose a firm with the right experience and resources to help you prove medical negligence and help get you the compensation you’re owed.

The New York Cauda Equina Syndrome lawyers of Finz & Finz, P.C., will provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (855) TOP-FIRM to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us today.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.