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Misdiagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Treatment of cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency. Misdiagnosis will lead to delays in accurate diagnosis and treatment with potentially devastating outcomes.

Diagnosing cauda equina syndrome

When a patient presents to their GP or A&E with the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, it should raise a high level of suspicion for the condition. This is because these symptoms are suggestive of nerve dysfunction:

It is imperative that a patient exhibiting some of these symptoms be referred for an emergency MRI in order to confirm a diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome.

Misdiagnosis

However, patients presenting at an earlier stage of the illness, often with lower back pain and pain/tingling in the legs are frequently sent home with a diagnosis of sciatica and a prescription for pain killers.

Sometimes investigations as to levels of sensation in the perineal area between the legs or around the buttocks are not carried out.

We have seen cases where the patient’s symptoms have been dismissed as a pulled muscle and where the need to attend A&E should red flag symptoms develop has not been made clear to the patient.

Effects of failure to diagnose or refer

Timing in the diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome can be absolutely key to the outcome for the patient. A delay in diagnosis can lead to the patient’s symptoms deteriorating, thereby reducing the chances of a good outcome from surgery.

It is widely agreed that the best chances of recovery from cauda equina syndrome are when surgical decompression takes place within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

A failure by a GP or A&E practitioner to identify the early symptoms of the condition can mean that, by the time an accurate diagnosis is achieved, the best moment for surgery has already passed.

A need for investigation

For those patients whose symptoms are not regarded as sufficiently worrying so as to require an immediate MRI and who go on to develop cauda equina syndrome, that failure to question and investigate can be life-changing.

Where there is any uncertainty as to diagnosis, further investigation seems a approach to adopt and may save the patient from a life-time of physical and emotional trauma.

Medical Negligence

If you suffer with the long-term symptoms of cauda equina syndrome due to a delay in diagnosis, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

Contact Glynns Solicitors to discuss your experience. We specialise in medical negligence claims and have supported numerous successful claims for delayed diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome.

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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