Could I possibly have cauda equina syndrome?

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I have had back problems since childhood. Five years ago at age 53 I had a lumbar laminectomy to relieve severe spinal stenosis. The surgery was successful; my pain evaporated and I had strength in my legs again. Almost a year ago I had gastric bypass surgery to lose the excess weight I blame on years of pain killers and immobility. That, too, was successful and I am nearly at goal weight. However, for the past four months I have experienced chronic diarrhoea that comes and goes. It comes far more often than it goes. Also I have had extreme bowel urgency ie incontinence. Diarrhoea is very atypical of gastric bypass recipients who tend to experience constipation. I eliminated everything from my diet that could possibly cause it due to malabsorption of fat and sugar. Thinking that maybe stress was causing it I was put on diazepam. Didn't work. Immodium does not make any difference at all. I didn't even think that maybe my spine was in trouble again until the incontinence. And then I remembered a few attacks of sciatica which I haven't had in years following the lumbar laminectomy. Also a few times I have had numbness in the genital area. I haven't had any pain in the digestive area so I am inclined to dismiss the possibility of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I would be interested to know if anyone else had similar symptoms and what was the final outcome.

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  • Posted

    Last night was an interesting time of reflection for me as everything suddenly became a lot clearer. For the past five months I have had no sensation at all when urinating. Dah! I had been so lucky with my lumbar surgery and was living life to the full. Bushwalking every day, mountain climbing, ocean rafting and so on, after once thinking I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. All that activity has stopped now due to the diarrhoea and incontinence. Co-incidentally, I have put in my resignation at work as I decided to retire to be a carer for my family, as three family members have diagnosed schizophrenia. I have thirteen work days left. It feels like skating on the razor's edge, not knowing if I am going to have an accident at work. I feel lucky that the onset of this condition has been gradual, so I have time to work out the best course of action. However, I am also aware that bowel incontinence is a medical emergency. I just have to play it by ear and head for ER as soon as I can.

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  • Posted

    Sorry to hear that after things finally going better for you all this stuff is happening. I think I had similar except in different orders. I too had bypass surgery which was successful for many years then I started having washroom issues and some pain in my upper back and neck which turned out to be gallbladder however the diarrhea never went away and progressed to a prolapsed bowel. I too lost sensation to go to the bathroom with my perenium bulging like a balloon. I went off work and was wearing diapers at just 43 yrs old. It did turn out to be cauda equina but for some reason Drs don't seem to consider the back however I don't believe too many things cause the sphincter muscle to relax. I guess you need to identify the root of your diarrhea, is it after certain food or is it because your sphincter muscle won't close as it should etc. Best wishes cause you deserve some time to be happy and to be able to focus on your family.

    Misty

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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for your comment, Misty. Wow, you have had a lot to suffer, having to leave work at such a young age. How are you doing now? Did you lose all your weight? I am in the process of investigating and ruling out. Fasting blood test on Saturday and asap ER at the nearest hospital with MRI facilities. I don't think it will be too difficult for my back to be considered as I already have had back surgery and was warned that this could happen. Thanks.

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    • Posted

      I'm 3 years out from a double laminectomy and discectomy, followed by pelvic floor reconstruction for all the areas the didn't correct themselves. I and am only back to work part time which is a struggle but I've just been approved for a spinal cord stimulator for pain which is my biggest struggle. Washroom issues are about 75% improved however so I'm very thankful of that. I still live in fear that gas will escape etc as it sometimes does but I try to stay light hearted or it could tear you down fast. After my bypass I lost about 100 lbs from 285 to 176. I regained to 183 and stayed there for about 7 years however I was very active and that came to a total halt do I've gained 40 lbs which I really don't need with my back issues but it's hard to get off without activity and on reduced calorie intake for so many years. I hope you get to the bottom of your issues but it sounds as though you have good doctor care. Best wishes.

      Misty

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  • Posted

    Dear B,

    Your concern seems reasonable and begs the question: what is shown on an up-to-date MRI scan.? and what exactly are the current examination findings? The latter is not so easy to get but those who ask their surgeon “What did you find from examining me?” ought to receive a direct and detailed reply (but if not, it’s necessary to repeat the question).

    Regards,

    J

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    • Posted

      Hi jerry 1776 and thanks for commenting. The last time I had an MRI scan was following my lumbar laminectomy to find the cause of continued pinched nerve pain. It turned out to by synovial cysts in the facet joints. They seem to burst spontaneously and don't cause lasting grief. But it has been four years since I had an MRI and I plan to get one as soon as I can. Thanks.

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