Cauda Equina Syndrome – a time critical emergency

16 March 2016

Most people will experience back pain at some point and for the most part such pain is likely to be minor in nature and capable of being managed and treated conservatively.

Cauda Equina Syndrome – a time critical emergency

However in some cases, severe back pain may be a sign of something much more serious, and might  indicate cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda equina is a rare condition affecting the nerves at the base of the spine, which are shaped like a horse’s tail (cauda equina in Latin).  The treatment of Cauda equina is a time critical medical emergency and requires urgent surgical intervention to release the pressure that has built up at the base of the spine.   Symptoms usually include some or all of the following…

  • Severe lower back pain
  • Pain or weakness in one or both legs that feels like your leg is giving way
  • Pain in the groin or inside of your upper leg
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction

 If any of these ‘red flag’ symptoms present, medical advice suggests that you seek urgent medical assistance at your local hospital.

Cauda equina can be difficult to diagnose however and if surgery is not carried out quickly (preferably within 48 hours), the build up of pressure on the nerves can cause permanent and life-changing symptoms such as paralysis and damage to the bladder and bowel.  Due to the fact that it is uncommon, cauda equina can be missed and often classed simply as back pain or urinary symptoms. 

If you have or have suffered cauda equina syndrome and have concerns in relation to the diagnosis and treatment you received, you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.  This may be the case even if cauda equina was appropriately diagnosed as the timeframe for treatment may still warrant investigation.  

If you, or someone you know, have any queries or concerns in relation to cauda equina you should seek legal advice to establish whether you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.  

Claire McDaid is a Solicitor with the Litigation department of Worthingtons Solicitors and specialises in medical negligence.  If you have any queries in relation to this article, please submit your query in the form below and a member of our litigation department will be happy to respond. 

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