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Urinary Retention and Cauda Equina Syndrome

When cauda equina syndrome results in total urinary retention, the prognosis for recovery becomes much worse.

Urinary dysfunction during cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is when the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed. This will normally be due to a slipped disc, although that is not exclusively the case. The condition may also be caused by a spinal tumour, an infection, an inflammatory disease or a traumatic incident.

When the nerves are compressed they will begin to lose function. This will lead to a number of physical complaints, with one of the most notable being urinary dysfunction. At first the individual in question will noticed increased desire to urinate, although there may not actually be any urine to pass. Voiding itself will be difficult and there will be reduced sensation in the urethra. It will often be necessary to strain in order to empty the bladder.

These symptoms are indicative of incomplete cauda equina syndrome, with ‘incomplete’ being the primary stage of the condition. There will still be a degree of bladder control, although this will be troubled by the aforementioned symptoms, particularly difficulty voiding and reduced sensation in the bladder and urethra.

Urinary retention and complete cauda equina syndrome

If the pressure being placed upon the nerves is not alleviated, they will become increasingly damaged. A patient’s symptoms will quickly worsen until there is no bladder control whatsoever. This is known as painless urinary retention.

When there is urinary retention there will be no sensation in the bladder and a patient will not know that he or she needs to go to the toilet. Consequently the bladder will become so full of urine that it will overflow, causing a patient to have an episode of urinary incontinence. When cauda equina syndrome reaches this stage, the condition is said to be ‘complete’.

Treating complete cauda equina syndrome

However, when cauda equina syndrome is complete it means the nerve cells have died. Once this happens the nerves cannot be repaired and the injury will be permanent. Therefore providing treatment when the condition is complete will not usually produce a favourable outcome as the damage cannot be rectified.

That is why it is so important for doctors to treat cauda equina syndrome while it is still incomplete, or a patient will be left with long-term neurological complications. If they fail to do so and treatment is delayed, there could be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.

To claim for cauda equina syndrome, contact us today 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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