Objective: To report a case of non-obstructive urinary retention secondary to cord compression due to metastases from undiagnosed carcinoma of prostate in a middle aged patient. This is the first case to be reported of its kind.

Case Report: A 58-year old brick layer, presented with urinary retention with overflow incontinence was referred by GP to A&E. No obstruction was felt during catheterisation and residual urine of 1.2 litres was drained. He also had dull low back pain since 5–6 weeks that was relieved by simple analgesia and he was able to work normally. He had no other symptoms or significant past medical history. Clinical examination including digital rectal examination (DRE) was normal. Laboratory investigations were normal except a rise in Alkaline phosphatase(194U/L) and ESR (43 mm/hr). X-rays of his spine were normal. MRI scan of the spine showed multiple metastatic lesions, bilateral end plate fractures and loss of vertebral body height of D12 with bulging of posterior vertebral body wall causing extradural compression of the conus.

An urgent D12 decompression and biopsy of D12 was done with D10-L2 instrumentation. PSA levels were >500ng/ml.Histopathology showed moderately to poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma with a cribriform pattern. Immunohistochemistry showed a strong staining for PSA consistent with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the prostate. Post-operatively, he regained bladder control and was referred to oncologists for further management.

Conclusion: Urinary retention may be the only presenting symptom of spinal cord compression due to metastasis from prostate cancer. High index of suspicion of prostate cancer in middle-aged and elderly male patients with urinary retention, especially when associated with back pain of any severity, even though prostate is normal on DRE is needed. PSA in patients complaining of low back pain who are at high risk for prostate cancer is recommended, even though DRE is normal.


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