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Referral of Patients with Suspected Cauda Equina Syndrome

If a GP suspects a patient is suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome, an urgent hospital referral must be made. If there is a failure to do so, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim.

How should a GP deal with Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Although some people with Cauda Equina Syndrome will go directly to their nearest Accident and Emergency Department, most will first seek medical attention at their GP surgery.

When a GP sees a patient with symptoms associated with a cauda equina lesion, there a certain steps that must be carried out. Primarily, an examination should take place to establish whether there is reduced sensation in the buttocks and saddle area, reduced anal tone and reduced leg raise. It is also recommended that tests are taken and sent off for analysis, including a urine and blood test.

However, this will not provide an immediate diagnosis, and the only way to actually verify spinal nerve compression is through an MRI scan. Therefore if a patient’s symptoms and the physical examination all point towards nerve damage, a GP should suspect Cauda Equina Syndrome.

There is only one reasonable response to the suspicion of Cauda Equina Syndrome, and that is to make immediate contact with the orthopaedic department or spinal surgeon and arrange for the patient to be reviewed on the same time. It is not enough to simply send a fax or advise a patient to return if their symptoms get worse. An urgent referral must be made.

Why is an urgent referral so important?

It is crucial that a GP makes an urgent referral for suspected Cauda Equina Syndrome because there is only a small window of opportunity in which to treat the condition. If nerve compression continues for too long, the nerve cells will die, after which they cannot regenerate. This will result in permanent loss of function, including the lack of bladder control, bowel control and sexual dysfunction. There will also be the loss of sensation around the buttocks and genitalia. Therefore it is crucial emergency decompression surgery is performed before the condition reaches the later stages.

GP Negligence

However, what happens if your GP fails to refer you, thereby causing a delay in treatment? If this has happened to you and you are now suffering long-term complications because of your GP’s actions, you need to contact a solicitor today. This is because in failing to make an urgent referral to a hospital, your GP will have provided a substandard level of care. You will consequently be entitled to compensation for the damage this negligence has caused. Contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors to find out more.

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