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Diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome must be diagnosed in the early stages, as this will greatly improve a patient’s outlook for recovery. But how exactly is Cauda Equina Syndrome diagnosed? What happens if there is a delay? And does a delay amount to medical negligence?

How to Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome

When diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome, medical professionals should take the following steps:-

1. Medical history

Firstly, doctors must take a patient’s medical history, noting the symptoms, when they started and how they have progressed. This should be sufficient to alert medical professionals to the possibility of Cauda Equina, as there are very specific signs to look out for. These ‘red flag symptoms’ include any urinary or bowel changes (such as the inability to urinate), leg and back pain, reduced sensation in the groin/genital area and muscle weakness in the legs.

2. Physical examination

If a patient is presenting the symptoms of Cauda Equina, a physical examination should be carried out to help verify a doctor’s suspicions. Amongst other things, this should including testing anal tone, sensation in the groin and genital area (especially the perineum) and muscle reflexes in the legs. Blood tests may also be taken.

3. Tests

A patient should then be sent for imaging tests as soon as possible. X-rays and MRI scans can both be useful when making a firm diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Cauda Equina – What are the Consequences of a Delay in Diagnosis?

Once Cauda Equina Syndrome has been diagnosed, a patient should be treated without delay. The type of treatment provided will be determined by the underlying cause. However, more often than not surgery will be needed to decompress the spinal cord.

Because Cauda Equina Syndrome is considered a medical emergency, it is vital that treatment is not withheld. In fact, the nerves must be decompressed within 48 hours. Any longer than this and the nerves will suffer permanent damage. In turn, a patient will be left with long-term complications such as urinary and/or faecal incontinence, numbness around the groin and genitalia, and lasting pain. Therefore Cauda Equina must be diagnosed in the early stages, or a patient’s prospect of recovery will be severely hindered.

Cauda Equina Syndrome and Medical Negligence

If there is indeed a delay in diagnosis, a patient must consider where responsibility for this delay lies. It is true that some people who are suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome fail to seek medical attention, as they are too embarrassed about their symptoms. However, if a patient does present to their GP or local A&E department with the red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina, but a timely diagnosis is not made, then there may be a case of medical negligence.

If you have had Cauda Equina Syndrome that was not diagnosed by medical professionals in a prompt fashion, causing you to suffer further injury, then you need to speak to a legal expert. This is because you may well have been the victim of medical negligence, meaning you could be legally entitled to claim compensation for your pain and suffering.

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