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Cauda Equina Syndrome and Negligence

February 06, 2019

The Cauda Equina is a term used to describe the group of nerves situated at the bottom of the spinal column.   When the nerves are damaged this is called Cauda Equina Syndrome and the cause is varied but usually a prolapsed or “slipped” disc or less commonly an infection or bone cancer.

Fortunately, the condition is very rare but when it does occur it is vital for the condition to be diagnosed immediately and the patient admitted to hospital for emergency surgery for nerve decompression to relieve the pressure on the nerves.  Thus, the Syndrome is considered to be a medical emergency.

If diagnosis is made early enough, patients who undergo nerve decompression surgery generally have a much better chance of a full recovery.   Any delay in diagnosis or treatment can cause further damage to the nerves which will affect recovery and if the nerves are so damaged by the time surgery is performed, then it is likely that damage will be permanent, causing serious lifetime problems, such as being confined to a wheelchair, or having permanent loss of bowel or bladder control.  Generally, emergency decompression surgery should take place within 24-48 hours of the onset of ‘red flag’ symptoms described below.    Although the Syndrome is confirmed by MRI, the diagnosis is usually made by your GP when symptoms are described which raise a red flag suggesting something more sinister than generic back pain or another condition.   Such “red flag” symptoms include:-

  • Tingling or numbness in the groin area and around your buttocks
  • Loss of or diminished bowel or bladder control
  • Loss of or diminished sexual function
  • Leg paralysis
  • Leg/Foot weakness in one or both legs

All surgery carries risk, and therefore even immediate diagnosis by your GP does not mean a patient will achieve a full recovery and may well experience ongoing symptoms.  The recovery period from the surgery can be protracted, often up to 2 years or more, and the patient will usually require therapy following surgery to help aid their recovery.  

If you have suffered from Cauda Equina Syndrome and believe that there was a delay in diagnosing or treating your condition such that you have been left with permanent nerve damage then we can advise you on whether you have a claim.   Alternatively, if your condition was diagnosed and treated promptly, but you believe that the surgery was performed negligently, or you suffered post-operative complications which were not treated appropriately, you may still be able to claim and we can advise you on this.

Here at Metcalfes we have an experienced team of Medical Negligence Lawyers who can offer you specialist advice.   We deal with all areas of medical negligence including complications arising from a delay in diagnosing or treating Cauda Equina. If you believe that you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical negligence then please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Further Reading:

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Cauda Equina Syndrome and Negligence

Gillian Clark

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