Defined as a complex neurological disorder affecting the lower half of the body, conus medullaris syndrome is caused by an incomplete spinal cord injury around the first two lumbar vertebrae. Though it doesn't typically cause paralysis, the symptoms of conus medullaris syndrome are similar to those of cauda equine syndrome and can have lasting and painful consequences, such as:

  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in the back and lower limbs
  • Bladder & bowel trouble
  • Sexual difficulties

Conus medullaris syndrome is a product of spinal trauma which can occur from a variety of injuries or a malformation of the spine. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury that has resulted in conus medullaris syndrome, it's important you understand your legal rights.

Severe Trauma to the Lower Back

One of the more common ways to develop conus medullaris syndrome is through severe trauma to the lower back. Examples of lower back trauma that can induce conus medullaris include:

  • Gunshot Wounds: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there were approximately 85,000 firearm-related injuries in 2015. When someone is shot in the lower back, the bullet can tear, rip through, or crush the spinal cord, causing there to be damage and partial to complete loss of function below the point of injury.

  • Auto Accidents: As the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, auto accidents account for 35% of these injuries each year. Car accidents can induce serious personal injury to all parties involved. Although the severity of injuries resulting from an accident are dependent on multiple factors, spinal cord trauma often occurs due to the jarring motion that happens during the collision.

  • Hard Blows: Receiving a hard blow to your lower back is something that should be avoided at all costs. Sledding or contact sports, such as football or soccer, can cause an incomplete spinal cord injury. Taking the proper steps to protect yourself or loved ones who may be involved in these types of activities is important.

  • Falls: For those over the age of 65, slips and falls are the most often cause of spinal cord injuries. Personal injuries after a fall are the second most common cause of spinal cord injury, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

Spinal Cord Abnormalities

Direct trauma to the lower back is not the only factor that can cause conus medullaris syndrome. An incomplete spinal cord injury, the precursor to developing conus medullaris, can result from defects in or around the area surrounding an individual's spinal cord. Some common spinal abnormalities that can cause conus medullaris syndrome, include:

  • Spinal Cord Infections: A spinal infection is rare, and most often caused by bacteria that spreads to the spine through an individual's bloodstream, typically impacting the lower, lumbar section of the back. The infection can prompt bone weakness, causing the bones to push on bundles of nerves like the conus medullaris, producing loss of function. The most at-risk populations to a spinal cord infection include those that are prone to pelvic, urinary and bladder, or soft-tissue infections.

  • Spinal Tumors: A spinal tumor is a growth that develops within your spinal canal or the bones of your spine. As the tumor grows in size, it can begin to push on bundles of nerves in your back, causing partial to complete loss of certain functions depending on where it's located.

  • Defects of the Spinal Column: Abnormalities of the spinal column include bends, compressions, or openings in the spine that are genetic in nature. These defects affect bundles of nerves, like the conus medullaris, from functioning properly and can cause incontinence, sexual dysfunction, severe back pain, and more.

Conus medullaris syndrome can be caused by either personal injury or spinal defects in any individual. Taking the proper steps to avoid your risk of personal injury is the best way to protect yourself from this condition. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with conus medullaris syndrome, you may have a case and the personal injury attorneys at Lipkin & Higgins would love to speak with you to learn more. Contact us today.