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Delays in Cauda Equina Syndrome Medical Care

If the medical management of your cauda equina syndrome was delayed for any reason, causing you to suffer cauda equina injuries, you could be entitled to claim compensation.

MRI scanning for suspected cauda equina syndrome

If there are no red flag symptoms, it is acceptable to defer an MRI scan until the following day. This might include a patient with the symptoms of leg pain, foot numbness, bilateral calf pain and spasms.

But if there are red flag symptoms, or there are bilateral leg spasms, an emergency MRI scan is needed. This means the scan should be done within hours of the patient being admitted.

A patient may display signs of partial cauda equina syndrome, in which case there is still time to prevent permanent cauda equina syndrome from developing.

Interpreting results

The results of the scan must then be digested as quickly as possible. The nature of a patient’s symptoms warrants a same-day review. If the scan does show compression of the cauda equina, an alert must be raised immediately.

The reporting radiologist should contact the orthopaedic team to declare the results. The orthopaedic team must then arrange an emergency neurological procedure. The orthopaedic team also has a duty of care to review the MRI scan the same day, given the possibility of cauda equina syndrome. Therefore the onus is not just on the radiology team.

Delays in medical care

Unfortunately there can be delays in medical care. This might arise for a number of reasons, including a shortage of beds, limited scanning facilities, full operation lists and indeed medical errors – such as a missed diagnosis or a failure to arrange emergency scanning and surgery.

If there are delays in the management of cauda equina syndrome, a patient’s symptoms will progress. Within a short space of time the patient will have the red flag symptoms of an evolving partial cauda equina syndrome before progressing to a complete cauda equina syndrome with urinary retention and bilateral saddle numbness.

Unacceptable delays in medical care

Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency. It has to be treated with surgical decompression before the nerves become too damaged. Irreparable nerve damage can occur within 24 to 48 hours. Thus treatment is needed within two days of the onset of symptoms.

If the treatment of cauda equina syndrome is delayed because of poor medical management, there may be grounds for a compensation claim. This includes cases in which there is a missed or delayed diagnosis. It also includes cases in which cauda equina syndrome is accurately diagnosed but still treatment is delayed – for instance, because doctors fail to look at the MRI scan results with any urgency.

Professional legal advice

For more information about claiming compensation for cauda equina syndrome, please contact us today.

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