Are There Any Risk Factors Associated with the Presence of Cauda Equina Syndrome in Symptomatic Lumbar Disk Herniation?

World Neurosurg. (2020).

Risk factors for developing cauda equina syndrome (CES) caused by lumbar disk herniation (LDH) remain controversial and have not been established yet. The aim of the study was to investigate whether there is a relationship among age, sex, body mass index (BMI), or the degree of spinal canal compromise and the presence of CES in patients undergoing lumbar microdiskectomy.

METHODS: Between 2015 and 2019, 506 patients who had an operation for LDH compressing the dural sac were prospectively identified. The “prolapse-to-canal ratio” (PCR) was calculated as a proportion of the cross-sectional area of the disk prolapse compared with the total crosssectional area of the spinal canal.

RESULTS: In total, 35 CES (6.9%) patients were identified. Multivariate logistic regression, adjusted for age, gender, BMI, and PCR, shows that only PCR was associated with the presence of CES (P < 0.001, area under the curve 0.7431). BMI was not associated with an increased risk of CES.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates a significant correlation between the size of LDH relative to size of the spinal canal and the presence of CES. A finding of LDH causing >60% obstruction of the spinal canal should be considered a red flag, and such patients need to be watched more closely.