Raising Awareness of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Raising Awareness of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a rare neurological condition which requires immediate referral for investigation and treatment to prevent permanent damage. ‘Red flag symptoms’ are often missed by clinicians leading to a disproportionately high number of medical negligence cases.

To mark Cauda Equina Awareness Day earlier this week, medical negligence specialist Helen Martindale has written this very comprehensive blog. Helen and the rest of the team have specialist knowledge of Cauda Equina Syndrome and experience in handling compensation recovery claims.

Cauda Equina, what is it?

The Cauda Equina is the bundle of nerve roots that emerge from the end of spinal cord. These nerve roots resemble a horse’s tail. Cauda Equina is taken from the Latin name and means horse’s tail.

What do these nerve roots do for our body?

They assist with the sensation and function and control of our bladder, bowels, sexual organs and lower limbs, specifically our legs.

When does Cauda Equina Syndrome occur?

The syndrome occurs when the nerves are compressed and cause a set of symptoms called “The Red Flags”

What causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Compression of these vital nerves can be caused by a number of factors.  However, Cauda Equina Syndrome most commonly occurs when there is a large central disc herniation (slipped disc) in the lower back.

What are “The Red Flags”

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Saddle numbness (This is a loss of feeling between the legs, numbness in or around the back passage and/or genitals and sometimes the inability to feel the toilet paper when wiping)
  • Bladder Disturbance (This is a difficulty or inability to urinate, difficulty initiating urination, loss of sensation when you pass urine, inability to stop or control urination and loss of full bladder sensation)
  • Bowel Disturbance (This is a difficulty or inability to stop a bowel movement, constipation and loss of sensation when passing a bowel motion)
  • Back pain/Sciatica/leg weakness
  • Sexual problems (This can include a difficulty or inability to achieve an erection or ejaculate and /or a loss of sensation during intercourse, including the loss of clitoral sensation. 

These symptoms are dangerous and immediate medical attention should be requested.

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a Serious Medical Emergency

If a person presents with the red flags then Cauda Equina Syndrome must be ruled out as soon as possible. You should immediately seek medical attention, usually via your GP or by attending A&E and an MRI should be performed to confirm the diagnosis without delay. If the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment will be offered by a neurosurgeon or neurosurgical team as emergency decompression surgery is needed within 24-48 hours for the best outcome.

Sadly, delays to neurological assessment, scanning, hospital transfers and treatment can lead to devasting life changing injuries due to a missed or delayed diagnosis and treatment.  Such injuries, without treatment, can include physical problems with bladder and bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction, mobility issues, chronic pain and fatigue.  There can also be devastating psychological injuries as well as an effect on hobbies, fitness and employment.

How Can We Help?

At Sills & Betteridge, we understand that the effects of a diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome can be devastating and can have an enormous impact on the quality of life of the person affected.

If you have been affected by Medical Negligence whilst being treated for Cauda Equina Syndrome, then we are here to help you explore and prove your claim to recover any compensation you deserve.

Generally, you only have 3 years to pursue your claim from the date of the incident or date of knowledge if later. Therefore, it is always best to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

If you feel that you may have been affected by Medical Negligence to include a delay or missed diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome, then please contact us. Sills & Betteridge Solicitors have a specialist Medical Negligence team with a wealth of experience and are fully committed to obtaining the best possible outcome for you. We are very approachable and will listen carefully to your concerns to help with supporting you and exploring all the available options.

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