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Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome

Partial Cauda Equina SyndromePartial cauda equina syndrome means there is still some executive bladder control. When a patient goes into painless urinary retention, the condition is complete. Cauda equina syndrome progresses from ‘partial’ or ‘incomplete’ to ‘established’ or ‘complete’.

Treatment must be given while there is still partial cauda equina syndrome to ensure the best outcome. Unfortunately treatment will be far less effective if given when the condition is complete.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for taking on J’s case, for the comprehensive advice and also for keeping us regularly updated with regard to the progress. I would not hesitate to recommend you or the firm to anyone in the future. Mr B.

What is partial cauda equina syndrome?

Partial cauda equina syndrome is also called incomplete cauda equina syndrome.

Partial cauda equina syndrome is the first stage of cauda equina syndrome. Therefore when the nerves initially become compressed, a patient is said to have partial or incomplete cauda equina syndrome.

Partial cauda equina syndrome is associated with a degree of bladder control. There will be some dysfunction, with: difficulty voiding, the need to strain, increased frequency, passing small volumes of urine, retaining urine in the bladder and reduced sensation in the urethra.

But despite these urinary symptoms, the patient will be able to pass some urine. More importantly, the patient will be aware of the need to pass urine and will be able to decide when to void.

What is complete cauda equina syndrome compared to partial cauda equina syndrome?

Complete cauda equina syndrome is the second and final stage of cauda equina syndrome. Without treatment a patient will progress from partial cauda equina syndrome to complete.

Where acute cauda equina syndrome is concerned, the condition can go from partial to complete within days. In cases of chronic (slow-onset) cauda equina syndrome, it can take months for the patient’s condition to become complete.

The patient can develop complete cauda equina syndrome without realising it. The main indicator is that there will no longer be any sensation in the bladder. Consequently the patient will not realise that he/she needs to pass urine.

The bladder is a reservoir and can only hold so much fluid. Once the capacity is reached, the bladder will overflow, causing the patient to wet themselves. This will be painless due to the loss of sensation. Often the patient will only become aware of the incontinence when she/he notices they have wet clothes or bedsheets.

Treating partial cauda equina syndrome

Complete cauda equina syndrome signals that the nerves have become extensively damaged. Even if treatment is provided at this stage, it may have little effect upon the eventual outcome.

This means that the condition is best treated when it is still in the partial or incomplete stage. The nerves have some function left and the symptoms can be resolved, or at the very least can be minimised.

Legal advice

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