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Incontinence After Cauda Equina Syndrome

If cauda equina syndrome is not treated in time, a patient may be left with urinary incontinence, and possibly even faecal incontinence.

Cauda equina syndrome permanent disability

The cauda equina nerves provide function and sensation to the lower limbs, the saddle area and the pelvic organs – including the bladder.

When cauda equina syndrome happens, the nerves are squashed and damaged, causing a loss of function and sensation. The only way to restore the nerves is to decompress them with emergency surgery. Any delay and the nerves will be irreparably damaged, meaning the loss of function and sensation will be permanently lost.

Urinary incontinence

The level of dysfunction after cauda equina syndrome will vary from patient to patient, but most will have a degree of bladder dysfunction. For many this will also lead to episodes of urinary incontinence.

More specifically, a patient with post-cauda equina syndrome may experience reduced sensation in the bladder and urethra. This can make it difficult to know when the bladder is full, resulting in overflow incontinence. There may be so little sensation that the individual is only aware they have wet themselves due to having wet clothes.

Some may also find it difficult to fully empty the bladder, leading to an increased number of trips to the toilet and potentially some urinary dribbling and leakage. Having retained urine can also cause recurrent urinary tract infections. This problem may be so bad that self-catheterisation is needed.

Faecal incontinence

The cauda equina nerves also serve the rectum and ensure strong anal tone. Cauda equina dysfunction can therefore lead to a loss of bowel control, resulting in either constipation or incontinence.

Faecal incontinence will happen because of laxity in the anal tone, meaning the individual in question cannot defer defecation when the need to pass a stool arises. If they do not reach a toilet in time, they will experience an episode of faecal incontinence.

Living with cauda equina dysfunction

Evidently the nature of these complications will be devastating for the patient and will radically alter the way they live their lives. Some may find it difficult to leave the house, and may need to use a catheter or incontinence pads on a regular basis. This can have an adverse effect upon an individual’s earning capacity, as it may not be possible to work with these problems.

Therefore if cauda equina syndrome is not treated properly, it can have a terrible impact upon a person’s physical, emotional and financial well-being. If you have suffered such complications because of medical error, you could be entitled to claim for medical negligence. Contact us today to find out more.

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