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Is Foot Drop a Sign of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Is Foot Drop a Sign of Cauda Equina Syndrome?‘Foot drop’ may be a sign that urgent action is required in order to prevent the patient from suffering long-term disabling symptoms.

What is ‘foot drop’?

If a patient is unable to flex the muscles that control the movement of the foot, therefore being unable to hold the foot upright, they may develop ‘foot drop’. This means that the foot will drag rather than bending up and down naturally as part of walking. This can happen to one or both feet.

The impact of foot drop can make walking very difficult and may require the patient to use a walking stick or wheelchair.

‘Foot drop’ and cauda equina syndrome

‘Foot drop’ can be a symptom of cauda equina syndrome.

When a patient develops cauda equina syndrome it is a sign that there is a problem with their cauda equina nerves in the lower, lumbar, region of the back. If these nerves become compressed due to a disc herniation or local swelling, they will start to lose some of their function.

The cauda equina nerves pass messages of sensation and movement between the lower body and the brain, so, if the nerves do not function properly, those messages are unlikely to get through.

Consequently, the muscles in the lower body may not receive instructions to perform certain tasks, leading, for example, to foot drop.

Although foot drop might be a result of a physical problem, in cauda equina syndrome, it is the result of a neurological failing.

Recovering lost neurological function

Whether a patient recovers the function lost due to compression of the cauda equina nerves, appears to depend largely on the timing of their decompression surgery.

If the patient’s cauda equina nerves are decompressed before too much function is lost, there is a very good chance that they will recover their function, be it urinary, sexual, mobility or bowel.

If surgery occurs too late, however, and the cauda equina nerves cannot recover, then restoration appears to be less likely.

What is the best time for surgery?

It is widely accepted that recovery of function is most likely when decompression of the cauda equina nerves takes place before urinary sensation and control are lost. This appears to be a key turning point.

Evidence would suggest that, once the patient is experiencing painless urinary retention, they are less likely to recover lost function after surgery.

Medical Negligence

It is clear, therefore, that a prompt diagnosis is vital in helping to preserve the patient’s function and quality of life.

If you or a loved one are suffering the appalling long-term effects of cauda equina syndrome, such as foot drop, because your diagnosis was delayed, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

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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