How Long Is Recovery After Cauda Equina Surgery (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Around 4-6 Weeks

Pain in the lower back is a very common experience that almost everyone has had once or more time. In almost all cases, it gets better by itself. But in a very rare case, it could indicate cauda equina syndrome (CES). The condition requires immediate medical supervision and surgery.

Cauda equina syndrome is a type of rare neurological condition wherein the entire bundle of the nerve roots present at the end of the spinal cord (cauda equina) is affected.

Although it’s a rare syndrome, many people across the world are affected by it. The only cure for this is undergoing surgery. And the recovery takes a bit of time, so that the patient, thereafter is completely fine.

How Long Is Recovery After Cauda Equina Surgery?

The recovery time after surgery is usually between 4 to 7 weeks. However. it may vary from person to person. The surgery procedure involves the removal of a portion that was compressing the nerves of that lower back area. Thus, it can be regarded as major surgery and the recovery takes time.

These nerve roots/endings which get affected in this syndrome are known to control the functionality of the bowels, legs, bladder. Talking about the causes, it is caused mainly due to the narrowness of the spinal canal or some sort of spinal infection.

Now that the recovery time of the surgery is known, you should also be aware of the exact symptoms of this syndrome. It would be helpful so that you don’t mistake this syndrome to be some regular lower back pain thing.

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Unbearable pain in the lower back is a major symptom. The pain is accompanied by numbness or weakness in either one/both legs. There could be sensations in the legs, thighs, feet which get worse with time.  Issues in the proper functioning of the bowel. Sexual dysfunction is also a major symptom. The bladder also doesn’t work properly.

RecoveryTime
Incisions and normal body parts4-6 weeks after the surgery
Nerves recoveryAlmost an year

Why Does It Take So Long to Recover After Cauda Equina Surgery?

Time duration of about 6 weeks is what is suggested by most of the doctors out there. Although, the time factor varies from person to person based on factors such as age, the cause of compression in the spinal lumbar area, general health factors, etc.

The treatment/surgery involves decompressing (or removal) of a certain part that is compressing the nerves. The operation causes muscles and nerves to traumatize. This is the reason why it takes so long to recover after this surgery.

The incisions take a time period of 4-6 weeks to dry but the restoration of the nerves takes time which may even take years to be normal. This is the reason why many recover soon after while some of them still experience neurological damage. The patients are advised, not to lift heavy weights, etc. as it may cause severe problems.

Generally, you will have to take physiotherapy sessions for a longer time duration. This will help in strengthening of legs and lower back. Regular follow-ups will be required for progress in recovery.

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If you are wondering who gets affected by this syndrome, it happens mostly to adults or some athletes (high-impact sports). If a person does a job that demands heavy lifting, etc., he is at risk of getting this syndrome. Being overweight also counts as one of the factors.

Conclusion

Cauda equina is a rare neurological condition caused by the nerves present at the endings of the spinal cord. It is caused mainly due to some injury to the connective tissue due to excess strain and trauma of the spinal cord.

The only way to cure this is a proper surgery. And if you are wondering how long the recovery period is, the time duration is 4-6 weeks. However, the time may vary from person to person.

The incisions may dry up but the nerves will take a lot more time to recover. You will be asked to not lift any heavyweight and gradually the recovery will take place. All you have to do is follow every instruction and you are good to go.

References

  1. https://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b936.full
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02688690500305324?journalCode=ibjn20

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