Conus medullaris and cauda equina syndrome as a result of traumatic injuries: management principles

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Conus medullaris syndrome (CMS) and cauda equina syndrome (CES) are complex neurological disorders that can be manifested through a variety of symptoms. Patients may present with back pain, unilateral or bilateral leg pain, paresthesias and weakness, perineum or saddle anesthesia, and rectal and/or urinary incontinence or dysfunction. Although patients typically present with acute disc herniations, traumatic injuries at the thoracolumbar junction at the terminal portion of the spinal cord and cauda equina are also common. Unfortunately, a precise understanding of the pathophysiology and optimal treatments, including the best timing of surgery, has yet to be elucidated for either traumatic CES or CMS. In this paper the authors review the current literature on traumatic conus medullaris and cauda equina injuries and available treatment options.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CES = cauda equina syndrome; CMS = conus medullaris syndrome; CT = computerized tomography; MR = magnetic resonance.

Conus medullaris syndrome (CMS) and cauda equina syndrome (CES) are complex neurological disorders that can be manifested through a variety of symptoms. Patients may present with back pain, unilateral or bilateral leg pain, paresthesias and weakness, perineum or saddle anesthesia, and rectal and/or urinary incontinence or dysfunction. Although patients typically present with acute disc herniations, traumatic injuries at the thoracolumbar junction at the terminal portion of the spinal cord and cauda equina are also common. Unfortunately, a precise understanding of the pathophysiology and optimal treatments, including the best timing of surgery, has yet to be elucidated for either traumatic CES or CMS. In this paper the authors review the current literature on traumatic conus medullaris and cauda equina injuries and available treatment options.

Abbreviations used in this paper:CES = cauda equina syndrome; CMS = conus medullaris syndrome; CT = computerized tomography; MR = magnetic resonance.

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Address reprint requests to: James Harrop, M.D., 909 Walnut Street, Third Floor, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. email: James.Harrop@jefferson.edu.
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