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Sciatica and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Sciatica is the first symptom of cauda equina syndrome. If it appears alongside the other red flag symptoms, a patient should be urgently referred to hospital.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed, resulting in pain that extends from the lower back, down through the buttocks and into the leg(s) and calf muscle(s).

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, running from the back of the pelvis down to the feet. It can become compressed or irritated in a number of ways, including a slipped disc, infection, injury and spinal tumours.

Sciatica and cauda equina syndrome

Sciatica can also be caused by cauda equina syndrome. This is a rare condition that occurs when the cauda equina nerves are compressed.

The cauda equina nerves are located at the end of the spinal cord, just above the sciatic nerve. They are extremely sensitive, so if they become compressed or irritated they will quickly suffer serious damage. At first this will lead to the symptoms typically associated with sciatica, including:-

However, as compression continues, the nerves will become more and more damaged. This will lead to further symptoms, which together are known as the ‘red flag symptoms’ of cauda equina syndrome. They include:-

If a patient with sciatica also displays these symptoms, medical professionals should realise that he/she does not have a simple case of sciatica. Instead, a medical practitioner should recognise the possibility of cauda equina syndrome and immediately refer a patient to hospital for urgent testing.

Failure to refer a patient with the red flag symptoms

If a patient with the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome is not urgently referred, the consequences will be devastating. This is because cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency, meaning treatment must be given immediately if serious complications are to be avoided. This includes paralysis, bladder dysfunction and bowel problems.

If you or your loved one has suffered such complications because doctors failed to diagnose cauda equina syndrome, there will be a case of medical negligence. Contact us today to find out more about claiming compensation.

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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