Residual neurological function after sacral root resection during en-bloc sacrectomy: a systematic review

Carmine Zoccali, Jesse Skoch, Apar S. Patel, Christina M. Walter, Philip Maykowski, Ali A. Baaj

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: Sacrectomy is a highly demanding surgery representing the main treatment for primary tumors arising in the sacrum and pelvis. Unfortunately, it is correlated with loss of important function depending on the resection level and nerve roots sacrificed. The current literature regarding residual function after sacral resection comes from several small case series. The goal of this review is to appraise residual motor function and gait, sensitivity, bladder, bowel, and sexual function after sacrectomies, with consideration to the specific roots sacrificed. Methods: An exhaustive literature search was conducted. All manuscripts published before May 2015 regarding residual function after sacrectomy were considered; if a clear correlation between root level and functioning was not present, the paper was excluded. The review identified 15 retrospective case series, totaling 244 patients; 42 patients underwent sacrectomies sparing L4/L4, L4/L5 and L5/L5; 45 sparing both L5 and one or both S1 roots; 8 sparing both S1 and one S2; 48 sparing both S2; 11 sparing both S2 and one S3, 54 sparing both S3, 9 sparing both S3 and one or both S4, and 27 underwent unilateral variable resection. Results: Patients who underwent a sacrectomy maintained functionally normal ambulation in 56.2 % of cases when both S2 roots were spared, 94.1 % when both S3 were spared, and in 100 % of more distal resections. Normal bladder and bowel function were not present when both S2 were cut. When one S2 root was spared, normal bladder function was present in 25 % of cases; when both S2 were spared, 39.9 %; when one S3 was spared, 72.7 %; and when both S3 were spared, 83.3 %. Abnormal bowel function was present in 12.5 % of cases when both S1 and one S2 were spared; in 50.0 % of cases when both S2 were spared; and in 70 % of cases when one S3 was spared; if both S3 were spared, bowel function was normal in 94 % of cases. When even one S4 root was spared, normal bladder and bowel function were present in 100 % of cases. Unilateral sacral nerve root resection preserved normal bladder function in 75 % of cases and normal bowel function in 82.6 % of cases. Motor function depended on S1 root involvement. Conclusion: Total sacrectomy is associated with compromising important motor, bladder, bowel, sensitivity, and sexual function. Residual motor function is dependent on sparing L5 and S1 nerve roots. Bladder and bowel function is consistently compromised in higher sacrectomies; nevertheless, the probability of maintaining sufficient function increases progressively with the roots spared, especially when S3 nerve roots are spared. Unilateral resection is usually associated with more normal function. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive literature review to analyze published reports of residual sacral nerve root function after sacrectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3925-3931
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Chordoma
  • Rectal cancer
  • Residual function
  • Sacral nerve root
  • Sacrectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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