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Do we know the outcome predictors for cauda equine syndrome (CES)? A retrospective, single-center analysis of 60 patients with CES with a suggestion for a new score to measure severity of symptoms

Alexander König, Lisa Amelung, Marco Danne, Ullrich Meier, Johannes Lemcke
European Spine Journal 2017, 26 (10): 2565-2572

OBJECTIVE: Despite the awareness and familiarity of almost every medical professional with the cauda equine compression syndrome (CES), risk factors for a poor prognosis of the disease remain elusive. Even the relationship between subsequent outcome and the time elapsed from the time of appearance of symptoms to surgery taking place remain obscure. The aim of our study, therefore, was to analyze a relatively large population of our own patients studied consecutively, to identify outcome predictors for CES and to propose a clinical score for CES symptoms (Berlin CES score).

METHODS: We screened the hospital's electronic database retrospectively for patients admitted with CES between 2001 and 2010. Since our hospital is a superregional trauma center with standardized emergency room procedures, all patients included in the study underwent the same routine. Using baseline data, we analyzed the following parameters: duration of symptoms, period of time between diagnosis and imaging, respectively, surgery; pre- and postoperative pain, motor deficits, reflex changes, urinary and bowl dysfunctions, reduced anal wink, saddle anesthesia, genital or perianal sensations and residual urine. The semi-quantitative assessment of the neurological outcome was performed by application of the Berlin CES score.

RESULTS: Surprisingly, we were not able to identify any single parameters that could reliably predict the outcome of the disease. We were able to show statistically significant correlations between a high preoperatively Berlin CES score (i.e., a weighted summation of bladder dysfunction, rectal dysfunction, genital sensation, perianal sensation, rectal tone and saddle anesthesia) and a poor outcome regarding the postoperative existence of perianal (p < 0.001) and genital (p = 0.001) hypoesthesia, as well as reduced rectal tone (p = 0.0047). There was no significant interference of bladder or bowel function. Further analysis, in which we considered the time between diagnosis and surgery, revealed that both patients operated within 24 h and after 48 h could benefit from the intervention. Consequently, we were not able to show a correlation between speed of surgical treatment and outcome.

CONCLUSION: Although we analyzed a relatively large cohort, we were not able to identify single parameters that were capable of reliably predicting the outcome of patients with CES. Nonetheless, we were able to show that consideration of multiple parameters of symptomatology would enable an improvement in making a prognosis. In conclusion, we propose establishing a simple semi-quantitative clinical score of the main symptoms of CES.

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