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Cauda Equina Syndrome and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Cauda equina syndrome is a possible, albeit rare, complication of ankylosing spondylitis. In this article we look at how the two are connected and what medical professionals should do to manage the condition.

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. It is not known why some people get the condition, although it is possible that genetic factors are at play. When it occurs, the spinal joints and ligaments will become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness in the affected area. It is a chronic condition with no known cure. People with ankylosing spondylitis can only manage the problem, using treatments such as physiotherapy and medication to alleviate symptoms.

Ankylosing spondylitis complications

Ankylosing spondylitis can lead to a number of possible complications, one of which is cauda equina syndrome. This will happen if the inflammation has developed in the lower part of the spine – known as the lumbar. When the lumbar region becomes swollen, the tissue will press upon the bundle of nerves that sits at the bottom of the spinal cord. These nerves are called the cauda equina, which is Latin for horse’s tail.

However, the cauda equina nerves are extremely sensitive and will quickly become damaged if any pressure is placed upon them. Because of this injury the nerves will lose function, resulting in symptoms such as numbness in the perineum, urinary dysfunction and weakness in the legs. When these physical problems occur due to cauda equina compression, someone is said to have cauda equina syndrome.

Managing cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency, meaning is must be treated immediately if further complications are to be avoided. Therefore if someone with ankylosing spondylitis presents with the symptoms associated with cauda equina syndrome, medical professionals should be quick to perform an urgent MRI scan to establish whether or not the nerves are being compressed. If so, treatment should be provided without delay. This will include anti-inflammatory medication and emergency decompression surgery.

Failure to diagnose cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a known complication of ankylosing spondylitis. Medical professionals should be aware of this risk and be able to diagnose and treat the condition within a reasonable amount of time, before additional problems arise. If there is a failure to do so, the level of care will be considered substandard. This might apply if doctors do not recognise the presence of spinal nerve compression, or do not provide emergency treatment.

If you have ankylosing spondylitis and have been adversely affected by cauda equina syndrome, talk to a solicitor today about claiming compensation.

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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