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Perianal Numbness in Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is associated with perianal numbness. In this article we explore what is meant by perianal numbness, what causes it and what action must be taken.

What is perianal numbness?

Perianal numbness in when there is reduced sensation around the perineum (the area between the anus and the genitals), the anus, the buttocks and possibly the genitals. These areas may feel be lacking in sensation – known medically as anaesthesia. There may also be a tingling feeling – known medically as paraesthesia.

What causes perianal numbness in cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is when a bundle of nerves located at the base of the spine are compressed. These nerves are known collectively as the cauda equina nerves.

When they are compressed by something such as a slipped disc, the nerves are damaged and begin to lose function. Amongst other things, the cauda equina nerves are responsible for providing sensation to the perianal region, including the perineum, anus, buttocks and genitalia.

Therefore when the cauda equina nerves lose function, sensation in these areas will be reduced. If compression of the nerves continues for too long, the nerves will be so damaged that sensation is severely reduced or lost altogether. This can be permanent if treatment is not given in time.

What action must be done?

It is possible to restore sensation in the perianal region, but only if treatment is provided quickly. The longer nerve compression lasts, the more extensive the damage will be. There will come a point when the nerves are so injured that they cannot be repaired.

This means that there is only a small window of opportunity in which to successfully treat cauda equina syndrome. If treatment is achieved within this time frame, the patient will have a much better prognosis. The sensation in the perianal region may return fully or partially. In some cases there will be residual saddle anaesthesia.

But if the nerves are not decompressed soon enough, the nerve damage will be severe and the loss of sensation will be permanent.

Expert legal advice from cauda equina solicitors

To ensure a patient is not left with permanent perianal numbness, medical practitioners must surgically decompress the cauda equina nerves within a reasonable amount of time. If they fail to provide this standard of care, leaving the patient with ongoing symptoms, there may be a case of medical negligence.

Contact us for more information on cauda equina syndrome and medical negligence claims.

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