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At What Point Should Doctors Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome?

When deciding whether a patient requires further investigation to confirm or exclude the possibility of Cauda Equina Syndrome, there are certain factors that will influence the opinion of a medical professional.

When should doctors consider further investigations?

Bladder and bowel symptoms are the most obvious indication of spinal nerve compression. These include a history of overflow incontinence of urine, a lack of any discomfort or warning signs that the bladder is full, and faecal incontinence with lack of sensation or desire to have the bowel open.

If such complaints are present, doctors should be quick to investigate whether there are any accompanying neurological symptoms. These might consist of severe leg pain (either in one or both legs), numbness or weakness of the knee or ankle muscles, and loss of sensation around the perineum. It is important to note that sciatica and reduced leg movement do not in themselves necessary indicate the need for urgent scanning. But when such problems are displayed in conjunction with altered bladder and bowel habits, alarm bells should start ringing.

When a patient is displaying the characteristic signs of spinal nerve compression (as described above) medical professionals should immediately carry out an examination. This should test if there is indeed reduced sensation around the perineum, poor anal tone, poor ability to perform a straight leg raise, absence of power in the foot and absence of reflexes in the knee or ankle.

If both a patient’s symptoms and the examination point towards Cauda Equina Syndrome, an urgent MRI scan should be performed. This remains true even if there is the smallest suspicion of spinal nerve compression. As long as these steps are taken, medical professionals should be able to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome at the earliest opportunity possible.

Was your Cauda Equina Syndrome diagnosis delayed?

But unfortunately medical professionals do not always manage to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome when a patient first presents. This is often because their condition is mistaken for something else, meaning the investigations which would otherwise diagnose nerve compression (such as an MRI scan) are not carried out. However, this can be catastrophic for the patient concerned, as a delay in treatment will usually lead to permanent complications.

If this has happened to you, you must talk to a solicitor about the care you received. If it is found that your condition could have been diagnosed at an earlier date (according to a reasonably competent medical professional) then you could be in a position to make a medical negligence claim. To find out more, contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors.

Please call us free on 0800 234 3300, from a mobile click to call 01275 334030 or complete our Free Online Enquiry for a no cost, no obligation opinion.

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