Cauda equina compression MRI categorisation

Disease area(s): Neuroscience; neurosurgery; cauda equina syndrome
Data sources: University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT)
Project stage: Data collection
Ethical approval: Granted (Reference Number: 23/SC/0064)
Principal Investigator: Dr Mark Thurston
Lead Researcher: Dr Mark Thurston


Cauda equina syndrome occurs when the nerves at the base of the spine are suddenly compressed which may result in bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, and/or sensory changes in the saddle area. The condition can require emergency surgery: delayed treatment can result in long-term irreversible life-changing nerve damage.

MRI of the spinal

Patients can present to their GP with non-specific symptoms but have significant and unexpected critical findings on their MRI identified at the point of reporting. Unfortunately, there is an ongoing significant backlog of radiology reporting, meaning that many patients referred from the community for MRI will not have their scan reviewed by a radiologist immediately.

A computer vision model that can correctly categorise MRI images would enable prioritised reporting of MRI scans with potential nerve compression. We are undertaking this project to investigate the feasibility of this approach.


Medical data used in this project is stored and processed in compliance with the highest data protection standards. All data that we analyse is first anonymised. Information that may be used to identify the people whose data we use in this project is held strictly on NHS computer systems and processed only by qualified NHS staff. We understand however that some people may not wish to have their data used in this way. If you would like to opt out of involvement of this or any other of our projects, please click here.