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Difficulties When Diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome

Medical practitioners often struggle to diagnose cauda equina syndrome (CES), a condition that occurs when the cauda equina nerves are compressed and lose function.

Why is CES so difficult to diagnose?

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare neurological condition. It is estimated that around 5% of lumbar disc prolapses will lead to cauda equina syndrome, and a GP will see a case of CES just once during their career.

Despite the rarity of the condition, medical practitioners should be aware of cauda equina compression and be able to make a diagnosis, or at least refer a patient to hospital for further testing.

However, this is not always the case and unfortunately some doctors struggle to recognise cauda equina syndrome. Often this is because of:-

1. A lack of understanding regarding the red flag symptoms

The red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are often mistaken for more common conditions. For example, lower back pain is very frequent among the UK population, as it sciatica. Both can be accompanied by urinary difficulties. Because of this, medical practitioners sometimes fail to appreciate that a presentation of back pain/sciatica with urinary dysfunction should be managed as cauda equina syndrome.

2. A lack of understanding regarding the onset of CES

Cauda equina syndrome is often thought of as starting very abruptly. It is true that CES can develop very suddenly. However, it may also develop suddenly after a history of back pain, and it may also develop very gradually over a matter of months. Medical professionals do not always understand this and so fail to investigate a patient with persistent and deteriorating symptoms.

3. A failure to refer

Due to a lack of understanding, there is often a lack of urgency when referring a patient with the symptoms of CES. Indeed, if there is any suspicion that a patient has spinal nerve compression, he/she must be referred immediately to hospital for a surgical review. Unfortunately this does not always happen as medical practitioners delay in referring a patient, only doing so when a patient has complete urinary retention.

Failing to diagnose cauda equina syndrome

If you have developed complications because doctors failed to diagnose you with cauda equina syndrome, please get in touch with us today. You may be entitled to claim compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured. Our solicitors will provide you with expert legal advice, suggesting what action you can take next.

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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