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The Difference Between Incomplete and Complete Cauda Equina Syndrome

When Cauda Equina Syndrome first presents, a patient’s condition is said to be incomplete. But as the nerve compression continues, their urinary symptoms will become worse until they are unable to control their bladder whatsoever. At this stage their condition can be considered complete.

Why is it so important to treat Cauda Equina while it is still incomplete?

Establishing whether a patient has incomplete or complete Cauda Equina Syndrome is an incredibly important distinction to make. This was highlighted in an article written by Gleave and Macfarlane, two neurological surgeons, who draw attention to the importance in distinguishing the two sub groups of Cauda Equina Syndrome:-

The first group is a patient with urinary difficulties or a neurogenic origin, including altered urinary sensation, loss of desire to void, poor urinary stream and a need to strain in order to pass urine. They define this group as having incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome.

The second group is referred to as complete Cauda Equina Syndrome with painless urinary retention and overflow incontinence. This means that they no longer have control over their bladder.

The syndrome progresses from incomplete to complete, although the exact time frame in which this happens will vary from person to person. In some it will be a matter of hours, while for others it will take months. It all depends upon the extent of nerve damage.

Indeed, when the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed, they will begin to suffer injury and lose function. This is when a person will begin to notice symptoms associated with Cauda Equina Syndrome. As this compression continues, the nerves will become increasingly damaged and a patient’s symptoms will become worse. Eventually the nerve cells will die and function will be lost altogether, leading to the absence of bladder control. A patient’s condition is then complete.

According to medical experts such as Gleave and Macfarlane, once urinary retention has occurred the prognosis is much worse. Therefore urgent decompression is required for patients presenting with incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome to prevent the progression to complete syndrome. At the time that urinary retention is established, it will be too late to recover the situation by emergency decompression of the cauda equina.

Did doctors fail to diagnose your condition in time?

If doctors failed to diagnose your Cauda Equina Syndrome while it was incomplete and you progressed to the complete stages without having received treatment, you could be entitled to compensation for the complication you have consequently suffered. To find out more, 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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