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Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) refers to a group of symptoms that occur when nerves in the cauda equina, a collection of nerve roots that spread out from the bottom of the spinal cord, become compressed or damaged. CES is considered an emergency and requires immediate surgery to prevent permanent paralysis of the leg or loss of bowel and bladder control.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, fellowship-trained neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, interventional pain management specialists, and radiation oncologists work together to determine the care each patient needs.

Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by extreme narrowing of the spinal canal that may result from a number of conditions. The most common cause is a herniated lumbar disk. Other causes include a birth abnormality or defect such as spina bifida, a spinal infection or tumor, trauma or injury to the lower back, spinal stenosis, inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, and a spinal arteriovenous malformation.

Early Signs of CES and Diagnosis

Symptoms may vary from person to person and mimic other conditions, making CES difficult to diagnose. Some patients report rapid onset, while others report gradual onset with numbness and weakness of the lower body and increased incontinence.

Our spine specialists use advanced technology to diagnose CES. After a physical exam to test muscle strength, reflexes, and nerve function, diagnostic tests may include X-ray, MRI, CT scan, and/or myelography, a special type of X-ray of the spinal canal.


Because CES is a medical emergency, treatment calls for immediate spinal decompression through surgery. Other treatments may be necessary depending on the cause of CES.

The UTHealth Houston Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from radiculopathy, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, peripheral nerve disorders, cauda equine syndrome, spinal cord injury, or other trauma benefit from our collaborative expertise in managing spine disorders.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.