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How Common Is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare neurological disorder. Nevertheless, it is one that medical professionals should be aware of and be able to diagnose.

Incidence rate of cauda equina syndrome

All of the literature regarding cauda equina syndrome describes the condition as ‘rare’. It is not known how many people develop the disorder every year, although the Medical Protection Society (MPS) suggests the incidence rate is thought to be between one in 33,000 and one in 100,000.

Despite being a rare condition, cauda equina syndrome has a relatively high medico-legal profile. The MPS was notified of 63 medical negligence claims relating to cauda equina syndrome between 2003 and 2007. Of these, 46 were in the UK.

Cauda equina complications

Cauda equina syndrome so regularly leads to legal action because the consequences of a delayed diagnosis are severe.

Cauda equina syndrome is when the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed, usually due to a slipped disc. This will damage the nerves, causing them to lose function.

The longer compression continues, the greater the damage will be. Within a very short space of time the injury will be so extensive that the nerves cannot be repaired. When the cauda equina nerves suffer irreparable damage, a person will be left with life-changing complications. These include:

These complications can, however, be avoided with timely treatment. Experts are undecided as to the exact timeframe, although many believe treatment must be provided within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Cauda equina claims

If doctors miss this window of opportunity in which cauda equina syndrome can be successfully treated, questions must be raised about the level of care provided. If treatment was delayed because a patient failed to seek medical attention in time then medical error is not to blame.

However, if a patient presented to their GP or hospital with the red flag symptoms of spinal nerve compression but medical professionals failed to recognise the condition, there will be a case of medical negligence. The same is true if medical professionals failed to appreciate the urgency with which cauda equina syndrome must be treated, delaying decompression surgery.

If the actions of medical professionals are directly to blame for a patient’s cauda equina complications, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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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