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Spine Compression Leading To Cauda Equina Syndrome

If the lower part of the spine is compressed, it is very possible that a condition known as Cauda Equina Syndrome will develop. In this article we take a look at how spine compression causes Cauda Equina Syndrome, what action should be taken and what effects a delay in diagnosis might have.

How does spine compression cause Cauda Equina Syndrome?

At the bottom of the spinal cord sits a bundle of nerves called the ‘cauda equina’ – so called because together they resemble a horse’s tail. These nerves are responsible for sending signals to the lower limbs and pelvic organs, including the bladder, rectum and genitalia.

However, these nerves are extremely delicate. Therefore if the vertebrae at the bottom of the spine (known as the lumbar) press upon the cauda equina, the nerves will easily become damaged. Such compression can occur for an array of reasons, with a slipped lumbar disc, spinal tumour and traumatic accident being amongst the most common.

As the cauda equina continues to be compressed, the nerves will gradually begin to lose function. The individual concerned will consequently begin to suffer certain neurological symptoms such as lower back pain, problems with urination (such as increased frequency but with the inability to fully void), sexual dysfunction and the loss of sensation around the perineum and buttocks. Collectively these symptoms make up the condition known as Cauda Equina Syndrome.

What action should be taken?

Anyone with Cauda Equina Syndrome should undergo emergency decompression surgery to alleviate the nerves of pressure. It is therefore of the utmost importance medical professionals make a swift diagnosis, as there is only a small window of opportunity in which to perform an effective repair. Indeed, if compression continues for more than 48 hours the nerves will sustain widespread damage. The injury will then be so severe that the nerves will be irreparably harmed and a degree of function will be permanently lost. This will leave a patient with serious long-term complications.

Does a delay amount to negligence?

If there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment and a patient does consequently suffer long-term injuries, questions must be raised as to why there was a delay. Was it because the patient did not seek medical attention until it was too late? Or was it because doctors failed to make a timely diagnosis and/or failed to appreciate the urgency with which surgery needed to be performed? If it was the latter, in that medical professionals were responsible for the delay, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim.

If you would like to discuss making a claim for Cauda Equina Syndrome, contact us at the Cauda Equina Solicitors.

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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