The cauda equina is a bundle of nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord. Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a rare condition that occurs when the nerve roots are compressed, thereby blocking movement and sensation. CES is a surgical emergency. Even with treatment, patients may lose some sexual sensation, bowel or bladder function, or lower limb movement.
CES can be caused by: traumatic injury to the lower spinal cord, tumor, infection, or a ruptured disk. Symptoms may include: bowel or bladder dysfunction, changes in leg sensation, and/or pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs. Your doctor will examine your muscle strength, sensation, and reflexes to test for CES. Blood tests, X-rays, MRI, or CAT scans may also be necessary.
CES requires surgery to remove whatever is causing compression of the nerves, thereby preventing further damage.