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Do I Need an MRI for Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Providing an emergency MRI scan is often a key feature of cauda equina syndrome diagnosis and failure to do so can lead to significant compensation claims if the patient’s symptoms deteriorate. Why does it matter?

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition epitomised by nerve dysfunction in the lower body and is produced when the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spinal cord become compressed.

The progression of the condition is not regular in terms of timing. For some people, deterioration is gradual whereas, for others, it can happen very quickly and, as symptoms develop, it can become a medical emergency. Recognition of key symptoms and an appropriate referral is often, therefore, fundamental to giving the patient a chance of recovery.

Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome

Depending on the stage which the condition has reached, symptoms can be either suggestive of some form of nerve damage or strongly indicative that compression of the cauda equina nerves specifically is at the root of the patient’s problems.

Symptoms which would suggest that the patient might be developing cauda equina syndrome would include the following:

The Role of the MRI

These symptoms should suggest to a medical practitioner that their patient might be developing cauda equina syndrome but it is not definitive evidence that the symptoms are being caused by compressed cauda equina nerves. For that, an MRI scan would be necessary.

MRI and Surgery

If the patient is exhibiting the above-mentioned symptoms, an MRI should be considered to be an emergency. If the nerves can be decompressed at this stage, the patient has the best chance of recovery of function. If surgery is delayed, however, there is the chance that the compression will worsen, the symptoms will deteriorate, and the patient’s chances of recovery will lessen.

Failure to refer

If a medical practitioner does not recognise that the patient’s symptoms are indicative of cauda equina syndrome and fails to make the appropriate referral, the outcome for the patient can be dramatically worse, possibly leading to a life-time of urinary and bowel dysfunction.

In these circumstances, the patient may be considered to have been the victim of substandard care and may be entitled to make a claim for compensation for medical negligence.

Speak to a solicitor

Glynns Solicitors is a specialist medical negligence legal practice, with a specific focus on cauda equina syndrome negligence.

Contact us to discuss your situation with an experienced 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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