Author(s): Robertson DP, Simpson RK
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Abstract Thirty-three patients with penetrating injuries to the cauda equina were admitted to Ben Taub General Hospital (1980-1989). Thirty received gunshot injuries, and three had stab wounds. The average age was 30 years, and 30 patients were male. All patients had been admitted within 1 hour of injury and received spine films, myelography, or computed tomography. Deficits were "complete" if total loss of function existed and were "incomplete" if any function remained below the level of injury. Improvement at the end of followup was defined as any recovery of motor strength or regaining of a unilateral sensory level. Twenty-nine (88\%) patients had incomplete neurological deficits. Of these, 15 (52\%) had surgery, and of this patient group, 7 (47\%) improved, 7 (47\%) showed no change, and 1 (6\%) worsened. Fourteen (48\%) patients with incomplete deficits were treated conservatively; 10 (71\%) improved, and 4 (29\%) had no change. Four patients (12\%) had complete deficits, 3 of whom had surgery, and all improved. One patient with a complete deficit was treated conservatively and did not improve. Ten (34\%) patients had bowel or bladder dysfunction, and none improved regardless of the type of treatment. Complications (cerebrospinal fluid leak, pseudomeningocele, or wound infection) occurred in 5 (28\%) operative patients and 1 (7\%) conservatively treated patient. Early neurosurgical intervention for penetrating injuries of the cauda equina may be beneficial but carries an increased risk of complication.
This article was published in Neurosurgery
and referenced in Journal of Pregnancy and Child Health