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Anal reflex versus bulbocavernosus reflex in evaluation of patients with spinal cord injury

Abstract

The examination of sacral reflexes provides an important method to differentiate an upper motor neuron vs lower motor neuron spinal cord injury (SCI). Two common sacral mediated reflexes used as part of the neurological assessment include the bulbocavernosus reflex (BCR) and anal reflex. As the clinical information from these tests are similar, we suggest that the anal reflex provides a better first option as a non-invasive clinical assessment of sacral reflex status in clinical practice in SCI as the testing for the anal reflex is less intrusive and already being performed as part of the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) by pinprick stimulation of the S4–5 dermatome.

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Fig. 1: Elicitation of bulbocavernosus reflex.
Fig. 2: Elicitation of anal reflex.

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Acknowledgements

We thank to Jason Bitterman MD for his figures drawn for this paper.

Funding

This study was supported in part a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90SI5026).

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Correspondence to Steven Kirshblum.

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Kirshblum, S., Eren, F. Anal reflex versus bulbocavernosus reflex in evaluation of patients with spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord Ser Cases 6, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41394-019-0251-3

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