Keywords: Back pain (PubMed Search)
Taking an accurate history to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)
Classic teaching is to inquire specifically about bowel and bladder function, sexual dysfunction, and/or loss of sensation in the groin.
Rather than asking about urinary incontinence, clinicians should ask specifically about difficulty passing urine, new leakage and retention.
Discussing issues related to sexual dysfunction are difficult for both clinicians and patients.
Rather than asking if there are any issues with sexual function, a more direct and informative way would be to ask if the patient has a “change in ability to achieve an erection or ejaculate” or “loss of sensation in genitals during sexual intercourse.”
Saddle anesthesia has the highest predictive value in diagnosing MRI-proven CES. Loss of sensation may be incomplete and patchy. Ask about change in sensation with wiping after a bowel movement.
Greenhalgh S, Truman C, Webster V, Selfe J. Development of a toolkit for early identification of cauda equina syndrome. Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2016;17(6):559-567.