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Complete and Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a rare condition that must be treated when symptoms are still ‘incomplete’. This will greatly improve the chances of a favourable outcome. However, if there is a delay and symptoms are allowed to become ‘complete’, the damage to the nerves will be extensive. Consequently, a patient may not make a full recovery.

Cauda Equina Syndrome – The Difference between Incomplete and Complete

When a patient is diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome, it is important to establish whether the condition is complete or incomplete. But what, exactly, is the difference between the two?

In essence, the two terms are used to describe the extent of urinary retention. Therefore incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome, which can be abbreviated to CES-I, relates to the initial stages of the condition. A patient will not have total urinary retention (i.e., it is incomplete), but will be experiencing symptoms of a neurogenic origin, including:-

As the nerves continue to be compressed, symptoms will continue to deteriorate. The amount of time this takes will vary from patient to patient. However, complete urinary retention can occur within a matter of hours. When a patient has complete Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES-R), he/she will present with:-

What is the Outlook?

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a medical emergency, so the sooner the nerves are decompressed the better. Thus as long as treatment is provided during the incomplete stages, the outlook for recovery is generally good.

On the other hand, the prognosis is much poorer for those who are diagnosed with complete Cauda Equina Syndrome. This is because the nerve injury will be extensive. Even after decompression surgery, there is little in the way of treatment that can repair the damage. This will leave a patient to suffer permanent side-effects, many of which are of a serious nature. Commonly, a patient will complete Cauda Equina Syndrome will have long-term complications such as:-

Complete Cauda Equina Syndrome and Medical Negligence

If you have presented to your GP or A&E department with incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome but they fail to take action, your condition will quickly deteriorate. It may only be hours before you are suffering from complete CES, which could in turn leave you with long-term complications.

If the medical professionals treating you failed to diagnose Cauda Equina in the early stages, you need to speak to a legal expert today. This is because their substandard level of treatment may have caused you to suffer additional injury. If so, you will be legally entitled to make a medical negligence claim. If successful, you will be awarded compensation for the pain and suffering you and your loved ones have endured.

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