Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 27, 2016
The spine is made up of a lot of intricate structures with complex names, and one such area that fits the bill is the conus medullaris. The conus medullaris is the cone-shaped structure at the base of the spinal cord. Oftentimes the conus medullaris is wedged between the end of the thoracic vertebrae and the beginning of the lumbar vertebrae, but sometimes it’s found between the L1 and L2 vertebrae.
Nerves that pass through the conus medullaris control your legs, bladder, bowels and genitals, and problems can occur if these nerves become compressed. When compression or injuries to these nerves occur, it is called conus medullaris syndrome.
Causes and Symptoms of Conus Medullaris Syndrome
Compression is the main reason someone would suffer from conus medullaris syndrome, but a lot of different conditions can result in compression. Here are some of the main culprits of conus medullaris compression:
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Stenosis
- Acute Trauma
- Arthritic Spinal Degeneration
- Deep Vein Thrombosis/Blood Clots
Unlike sciatica nerve injuries that only affect one side of the body, conus medullaris nerve compression is generally bilateral, meaning it affects both sides of your body. Symptoms of conus medullaris compression include lower back pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, loss of sensation in the groin, legs or feet, inhibited motor functions in the lower body, impotence and loss of bladder control. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to a spinal surgeon as soon as possible.
Treating Conus Medullaris with Spine Surgery
Treatment of the condition varies based on which nerves are being compressed and the possibility of the success of surgical and non-surgical options. Your doctor will confirm your diagnosis with the assistance of a physical exam and imaging tests like an X-Ray, CT scan or MRI. If the compression is minor, your doctor may suggest you move forward with a non-operative treatment plan like injections or physical therapy, but if the compression is extensive or it’s putting other structures in danger, decompression surgery may be your best bet.