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Podcast # 467: Cauda Equina Syndrome

Emergency Medical Minute

Release Date: 05/09/2019

Author: Erik Verzemnieks, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Cauda equina syndrome is caused by the compression of the nerve roots that extend beyond the termination of the spinal cord
  • Trauma, infection, hematoma, disc rupture/herniation can cause this - basically anything that can cause pressure and fill space
  • Symptoms can include saddle anesthesia, lower extremity pain, numbness, incontinence, and constipation
  • Post-void residual that is abnormally high may be an indicator
  • MRI is diagnostic modality of choice
  • Emergent surgical decompression is treatment


Jalloh I, Minhas P. Delays in the treatment of cauda equina syndrome due to its variable clinical features in patients presenting to the emergency department. Emerg Med J. 2007 Jan;24(1):33-4. doi: 10.1136/emj.2006.038182. PubMed PMID: 17183040; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2658150.