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The sacral exam—what is needed to best care for our patients?

Abstract

Sacral reflexes are important to allow the SCI practitioner to gain information about the state of the sacral spinal cord segments. The presence of the bulbocavernosus and/or the anal wink reflex indicate an intact spinal reflex arc and reflex conal autonomic function (as part of the upper motor neuron syndrome); their absence defines a lower motor neuron syndrome. The assessment of sacral reflexes helps predict the type of bladder, bowel and sexual functions and the related therapeutic interventions. We suggest adding the sacral component of the International Standards for the Assessment of Autonomic Function after SCI (ISAFSCI) to the International Standards for the Neurologic Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) examination so there can be a detailed description of these important functions. As an alternative, the performance of sacral reflexes should be routinely required as part of the neurologic examination after SCI. Whether the sacral motor neuron system is classified as upper or lower motor neuron injury is also quite useful and as such should be present in the ISCNSCI.

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Correspondence to Jean Gabriel Previnaire.

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JGP has nothing to disclose. MA is author of the book “sexual sustainability”.

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Previnaire, J.G., Alexander, M. The sacral exam—what is needed to best care for our patients?. Spinal Cord Ser Cases 6, 3 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41394-019-0252-2

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