Cauda Equina Syndrome
The vertebral column is made up of 33 vertebrae stacked one on top of another with a spinal disc between the vertebrae acting as a jelly-like cushion. The vertebral column forms a hollow bony canal which contains the spinal cord itself. This canal is called the “spinal canal.”
The vertebral column (spinal canal) which houses the spinal cord is longer than the spinal cord inside the canal. The spinal cord ends at the level of the first lumbar vertebrae (L1). At this level, the spinal cord sends out nerve fibers which run down the remainder of the spinal canal. These nerve fibers look like a horse’s tail when viewed from the back. As a result, this group of nerve fibers is called the “cauda equina” (horse’s tail).
Following a large impact Woodbridge car accident, Cathy was told by the doctors at Potomac Hospital that she had cauda equina syndrome -- a medical emergency.
Cauda equina syndrome is compression of the “horse’s tail” of nerves at the bottom end of the spinal cord. The word “syndrome” is a term used in medicine to describe a group of symptoms related to a particular condition. Here -- the symptoms result from compression of the cauda equina nerves (the “horse’s tail”).
The symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include:
- severe low back pain
- loss of sensation in the groin area - “saddle anesthesia”
- severe pain radiating down the leg
- muscle weakness in the leg
- loss of sensation in the leg
- loss of bowel/bladder control (incontinence)
- sudden loss of sexual function
Any condition that compresses the cauda equina (horse’s tail) of nerves coming off the lower end of the spinal cord, in the lumbar region of the spine, can cause cauda equina syndrome, such as the following caused by car, truck and motorcycle accidents:
- large herniated disc in the low back at L4-L5 or L5-S1
- severe fracture or dislocation (subluxation) of a lumbar vertebrae
- aggravation of preexisting osteoarthritis
- traumatic bleeding around the horse’s tail of nerves called an “epidural hematoma”
Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency. The compression of the horse’s tail of nerves must be relieved within 48 hours. If not, the injured person could develop permanent loss of bowel/bladder control or even paralysis of his legs.
The source of the compression of the cauda equina nerves must be removed. Surgery is most often required. The surgery involves two procedures. The first procedure is called a “laminectomy” where the surgeon removes a piece of bone from the back of a vertebrae called the “lamina” in order to get to the source of compression. The next surgical procedure is a discectomy - where the surgeon removes a herniated disc compressing the nerve root.
With Gerald Schwartz
Cauda equina syndrome is a serious spinal injury. Alexandria personal injury attorney Gerald Schwartz is an experienced Virginia cauda equina syndrome lawyer. Call him for a free consultation at 1-800-423-0055.