Disorders of the Cauda Equina

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Conditions that affect the cauda equina are a diverse group of disorders that require timely recognition and management. This article reviews cauda equina anatomy, the diagnostic approach to disorders of the cauda equina, features of cauda equina syndrome, and diskogenic and nondiskogenic disorders of the cauda equina.


Establishing clinical criteria for cauda equina syndrome has been a focus of a number of reviews, although the clinician must maintain a low threshold for emergent imaging in cases of suspected cauda equina syndrome because of the suboptimal reliability of various signs and symptoms in identifying this condition clinically. The timing of surgical intervention for compressive causes of cauda equina dysfunction remains a point of contention, although urgent decompression remains standard practice. A recent review that focused on outcomes in patients with cauda equina compression who underwent surgical decompression identified significant residual deficits in patients despite appropriate and timely intervention. Autoimmune conditions targeting the cauda equina have been increasingly recognized, including chronic immune sensory polyradiculopathy and chronic immune sensorimotor polyradiculopathy.


Disorders that affect the cauda equina require thoughtful and timely clinical examination and diagnostic testing to establish a definitive cause and an appropriate treatment approach.

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