It is a medical emergency that, if not treated promptly, can cause permanent damage to nerves serving the bladder and bowel. The effects can be debilitating and may have a significant impact upon your future, including your ability to work. Cauda equina is mainly found in adults, but it can occur at any age.
A favourable outcome is dependent on timely and effective treatment. The risk of serious complications increases if diagnosis and appropriate management is delayed and can result in permanent neurological injury, loss of bowel and bladder function and sexual dysfunction.
Diagnosing cauda equina syndrome can be difficult. Most cases usually have a sudden onset of symptoms and progress rapidly within hours or days, but it can also develop slowly and in some cases, patients do not always experience pain.
Cauda equina syndrome is rare, however, the following symptoms should prompt further investigation by your doctor:
- Low back pain with pain in either one or both legs and sensory abnormalities, including pins and needles
- Lower limb weakness with sensory abnormalities or loss of reflexes
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction, including an inability to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping urinating, bladder or bowel incontinence, loss of feeling and sensation, constipation
- Loss of feeling or pins and needles in the saddle area
- Sexual dysfunction
It is very important that patients are referred immediately for urgent investigation if nerve root compression is suspected. An MRI scan may be required to confirm diagnosis and immediate spinal decompression surgery could be required to prevent permanent neurological damage.
- Compression of the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Herniation of a lumbar disc – cauda equina syndrome is often caused by compression arising from large central lumbar disc herniation at L4/5 and L5/S1
- Trauma – possibly an accident, fall or an injury that has placed stress on your spine
- Spinal manipulation
- A congenital condition, including a narrow spinal canal, spinal stenosis, kyphoscoliosis and spina bifida
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Post operative haematoma
- Inferior vena cava thrombosis
All medical practitioners have a duty to take reasonable care when managing patients by recognising potentially serious symptoms and referring for further investigation and treatment. Failure to meet this duty may result in patients being left injured, sometimes permanently, and they can often feel helpless when dealing with a large health trust that may not want to handle complaints properly, no matter how genuine.
If you feel you have suffered as a result of a delay in diagnosing or treating your symptoms, please contact Taylor&Emmet. We would be happy to discuss your case in absolute confidence, answer any questions you may have and explain how we could help.
You can claim compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, loss of earnings, medical and nursing care costs, specialist equipment needed to carry out daily activities, costs in adapting your home, costs of pain relief, any private medical care for which you have paid and any other expenses incurred as a result of your injury.