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Herniated Disc Causing Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a fairly rare but potentially devastating condition which is usually caused by a herniated disc. Early diagnosis is vital to ensure the best outcome.

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition produced when the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spinal cord become squashed or compressed. This results in the nerves being unable to function properly causing loss of sensation and function in the lower body, specifically the bladder, bowel, sexual organs and legs.

What causes cauda equina syndrome?

Anyone can develop cauda equina syndrome whatever their age or sex. It can be caused by a range of pre-existing conditions such as inflammation of the spine, severe trauma or an infection of the spine.

However, most people who develop cauda equina syndrome have a pre-existing back condition, often a herniated disc in the lower back. This is most likely to occur in someone older as it is usually influenced by the aging process.

A herniated disc

A herniated disc (also known as a slipped disc or ruptured disc) is where a disc between two spinal vertebrae has developed a tear in the outer ring, allowing the inner material to emerge and press on the adjacent nerves. Depending on the position of the disc and the location of the tear – to the side or centrally – the degree and nature of the impact on the nerves will vary.

If the herniated disc presses on the cauda equina nerves which are found in the lumbar region of the back, then the following symptoms are likely to develop:

Cauda equina syndrome red flag warnings

A patient who visits their GP or A&E with the above symptoms should be warned to look out for signs that they may be developing cauda equina syndrome as it is a medical emergency.

Key symptoms to be aware of are alteration in sensation when urinating, such as having to strain or altered flow, and loss of feeling in the saddle area, such as the buttocks and genitals.

A medical emergency

If a patient is suspected of developing cauda equina syndrome, they need a confirmed diagnosis as quickly as possible. This is likely to require an MRI scan to show the cause of their symptoms.

Once a diagnosis has been established, emergency surgery may be needed to try to prevent any further deterioration of the nerve function.

Medical Negligence

If the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are ignored by a medical practitioner, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment, the patient may be entitled to make a claim for compensation for their subsequent pain and suffering.

Contact Glynns Solicitors, a specialist medical negligence legal practice, to discuss your situation with a solicitor experienced in supporting cauda equina syndrome claims.

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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