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Failing to Recognise Cauda Equina Syndrome

Failing to Recognise Cauda Equina SyndromeCauda equina syndrome is a fairly rare condition but its effects can be both devastating and lifelong. It is vital, therefore, that all medical professionals have a clear awareness of this medical emergency.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a neurological condition where damage to the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spine can cause severe lower body dysfunction.

If it is recognised in time, surgery can bring about a good recovery but a failure to recognise the early symptoms can mean that the patient receives surgery too late for a substantial recovery to be likely.

The role of medical professionals

Some medical practitioners may only very rarely – if at all – encounter a patient who is developing cauda equina syndrome. It is quite possible, therefore, for the symptoms to be assumed to be something less sinister, such as sciatica.

But the destructive nature of cauda equina syndrome and the urgency with which treatment is necessary means that all those who are likely to come into contact with it – GPs, A&E practitioners, physiotherapists, musculoskeletal practitioners, orthopaedic and neuro-surgeons – need to be swift and decisive in spotting early symptoms.

Early symptoms

A patient who is starting to develop cauda equina syndrome may exhibit the following symptoms:

Red flag warnings

It is also important that patients who are suffering with lower back/leg pain are alerted to the red flag symptoms as mentioned above should their condition deteriorate.

Many patients who go on to develop cauda equina syndrome have previously suffered with lower back pain and they need to be aware of the urgency which should be associated with any deterioration. If they develop the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, they need to attend their closest A&E unit immediately.

Effects of failure to diagnose

If a patient with cauda equina syndrome does not receive decompression surgery before they lose control of their bladder, it is possible that they may never recover any lost function or sensation in the lower body – the legs, feet and pelvic region. They may be left doubly incontinent with sexual and mobility problems and associated psychological issues.

A failure to diagnose early symptoms is likely to mean that the patient is not referred for an MRI scan which could otherwise identify that the symptoms do, in fact, have a neurological cause in the lumbar region of the back.

A failure to refer for an MRI scan leading to a poor outcome for the patient can also be the focus of a claim for compensation for the patient’s suffering and subsequent losses.

Speak to a solicitor

If you or a loved one are suffering with the shocking life-long effects of cauda equina syndrome due to a failure to recognise the symptoms, contact us to discuss your experience with a specialist medical negligence solicitor.

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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