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Cauda Equina Syndrome and a Disc Prolapse

Cauda equina syndrome can be caused in a number of ways, but the most common is a disc prolapse.

How does a disc prolapse cause cauda equina syndrome?

A prolapsed disc is when the inner part of a vertebral disc (the rubber-like tissue that sits between each vertebra) bulges through the outer part of the disc. If this occurs in the lower part of the spine – known as the lumbar – it is possible that the prolapsed disc can press upon the bundle of nerves located at the spinal cord. The nerves are called the cauda equina, so called because they have been likened to a horse’s tail.

However, these nerves are very sensitive; if they come under pressure they will quickly become damaged and begin to lose function. The cauda equina nerves provide sensation to the saddle area (i.e. the buttocks and the genitals) and control the bowel, bladder and sexual function. Therefore if a prolapsed disc bulges outwards and compresses the cauda equina nerve roots, a patient will begin to develop symptoms such as:

Together these symptoms are known as cauda equina syndrome.

Treating a prolapsed disc

When a patient presents with these symptoms, doctors should recognise their health complaints as being characteristic of spinal nerve compression. No time should be wasted in performing an MRI scan to confirm whether or not this suspected diagnosis is correct. This will reveal a prolapsed disc pressing upon the nerves, allowing medical professionals to make a firm diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome.

Emergency decompression surgery can then be carried out during which the prolapsed disc will be removed. It is essential this is done without delay, as treatment must be provided before too much damage is done to the nerves. But if surgery is withheld and a patient progresses to complete painless urinary retention, their prognosis for recovery will not be favourable. This is because the nerves will have been placed under so much pressure that the nerve cells have died, after which they cannot regrow. A patient will therefore be left with permanent loss of function.

Have you suffered cauda equina syndrome due to a prolapsed disc?

If you have suffered cauda equina syndrome complications because medical professionals failed to diagnose and treat your prolapsed disc, you could be in a position to make a medical negligence claim. To find out more about claiming compensation for cauda equina syndrome, contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors today.

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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