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Saddle Anaesthesia And Cauda Equina Syndrome

Saddle Anaesthesia And Cauda Equina Syndrome

Saddle anaesthesia is a red flag symptom of cauda equina syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency, so a patient with saddle anaesthesia should be urgently referred to hospital for an MRI scan.

Saddle Anaesthesia

Saddle anaesthesia refers to reduced sensation in the area that would be in contact with a saddle if sitting on one. This includes the perineum, buttocks, anus, groin and upper thighs.

Saddle anaesthesia will make these areas feel numb and abnormal. One indicator of saddle anaesthesia is that the individual may not be able to feel anything when wiping the urethra after urinating, or the bottom after defecating.

Saddle anaesthesia and cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a neurological condition which happens when the cauda equina nerves are compressed, causing them to become damaged and lose function.

One side effect of this is that saddle anaesthesia will develop. There are also other symptoms associated with cauda equina syndrome, such as:

Urgent referral for cauda equina syndrome if showing signs of saddle anaesthesia

If a patient has saddle anaesthesia and other symptoms associated with cauda equina syndrome, an urgent referral should be made for an MRI scan.

Saddle anaesthesia in particular is a red flag symptom of cauda equina syndrome. A patient may have symptoms such as lower back pain for a long period of time. But when saddle anaesthesia appears as well, alarm bells should start ringing as it indicates that the condition may have progressed to cauda equina syndrome.

If the referral is being made by a GP, the clinician should telephone a hospital and speak to an appropriately qualified orthopaedic or spinal practitioner. This should be followed by admission to hospital as soon as practicable, providing the hospital has the resources needed to diagnose/treat a suspected case of cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda equina syndrome not treated urgently

If a patient does not urgently undergo an MRI scan, despite having saddle anaesthesia, it could have potentially devastating results. This is because saddle anaesthesia is a sign of incomplete cauda equina syndrome. Within a short space of time, the patient will develop complete cauda equina syndrome, characterised by urinary retention.

Once cauda equina syndrome is complete, treatment will not be effective. The condition must be treated while it is incomplete, while a patient has saddle anaesthesia.

Medical negligence claim

If medical practitioners fail to realise that a patient is showing the signs of incomplete cauda equina syndrome and therefore fail to make an urgent referral, there could be grounds for a claim. Contact us for more information.

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