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Complete Cauda Equina Syndrome

When it comes to treating Cauda Equina Syndrome, it is important to determine whether the condition is incomplete or complete. If it is still incomplete, a patient has a good chance of making a full recovery. But if the condition is allowed to progress to complete, the prognosis will become much less favourable.

What is complete Cauda Equina Syndrome?

When the nerves located at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed, a patient is said to have Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). This is a very rare condition, but nonetheless is one that all medical professionals must be aware of, as it requires urgent treatment if a patient is to make a recovery.

It is therefore of the utmost important that Cauda Equina Syndrome is both diagnosed and treated in the early stages when the condition is still ‘incomplete’. Incomplete CES (CES-I) is characterised by neurological symptoms which, amongst other things, will include perineal numbness and urinary dysfunction such as loss of ability to void, poor stream and the need to strain.

As the nerves continue to be compressed, the injury will become more and more extensive and a patient’s symptoms will gradually worsen. Within a very short space of time, a patient will move from incomplete to complete Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES-R), something which is associated with significant loss of perineal sensation and bladder control. This means that a patient will experience painless urinary retention and total urinary incontinence.

Prognosis for complete Cauda Equina Syndrome

Once a patient develops complete Cauda Equina Syndrome, the prognosis for recovery is poor. It is not something that will cause a fatality; it will, however, result in long-term health complications of a serious nature. Indeed, if the cauda equina nerves suffer irreparable injury (as they do with complete CES) a patient will be left with permanent neurological problems which may include total or partial paralysis, urinary dysfunction and chronic pain.

Are doctors to blame for complete Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Complete Cauda Equina Syndrome can occur within a very short space of time – sometimes within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Because of this small window of opportunity, it is essential decompression is provided as soon as possible. But unfortunately this does not always happen. Sometimes a patient will delay in seeking medical attention until their symptoms are severe, by which time it is too late.

However, sometimes a delay is the direct result of medical error. For example, it is possible that doctors fail to recognise the presentation of Cauda Equina Syndrome, instead diagnosing a more minor condition and discharging a patient from their care. In such cases, it is very likely that medical professionals will be held responsible for the injuries a patient suffers because of complete Cauda Equina Syndrome.

If this has happened to you or a loved one, contact us today to talk about what action you can take next.

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