What is Cauda Equina Syndrome? My sister just called and said her husband is having emergency surgery for this problem.
Cauda equina refers to the bundle of spinal nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord. The term actually means tail of the horse. The many nerves bunched together at the base of the spine resembles a horse's tail.

Pressure on the nerves in this area can cause a group of symptoms referred to as cauda equina syndrome (CES). Symptoms vary from patient to patient. These include low back pain, sciatica (pain and/or numbness down the leg), and numbness in the groin area.

Other symptoms commonly reported with CES can include leg weakness, and loss of bowel and/or bladder control. Men may have difficulty getting an erection or keeping an erection. This additional problem is called erectile dysfunction. Women may have increased pain during sexual intercourse or difficulty having an orgasm. Very few people have all of the symptoms.

Anything that can put pressure on the cauda equina can cause CES. The most common causes are disc herniation and spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of the opening in the bone for the nerves to pass through.

Surgery is important to prevent permanent damage and loss of function. Even with surgery, many people are left with some problems, most often urinary incontinence (leaking or dribbling urine).