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Cauda Equina Red Flag Symptoms

Cauda Equina Red Flag Symptoms

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a rare but serious condition. As a medical emergency, it is vital medical professionals make a quick diagnosis. However, often this will not happen until a patient begins to present the "red flag" symptoms. If a diagnosis still fails to be made even with the presence of these symptoms, then a patient's health will be put at risk.

What Is Cauda Equina?

Cauda Equina Syndrome occurs when the bundle of nerves located at the bottom of the spine becomes compressed. This may happen for a number of reasons, the most common being: traumatic injury (during something such as a car crash), spinal stenosis, tumours, inflammatory conditions and infection.

When the nerves are compressed, the patient will soon begin to notice bladder and bowel problems. For example, people will often feel the need to urinate frequently, even if there is no urine to pass. There may also be a loss of sensation when going to the toilet, as well as pain in the lower back and leg.

What Are the Red Flag Symptoms?

The first symptoms of Cauda Equina are, therefore, extremely similar to that of other bladder, bowel and gynaecological conditions. That is why doctors often make a misdiagnosis when a patient first presents, as the problem is easily mistaken for a more minor illness. For example, a patient may be told he/she has a urinary tract infection or fibromyalgia (a condition which causes pain across the entire body).

However, Cauda Equina Syndrome quickly progresses, meaning a patient will soon start to display certain red flag symptoms. These include:-

  • Severe back pain;
  • Sciatica (weakness, pain or tingling in the legs);
  • Saddle anaesthesia (ie. around your perineum);
  • Genital sensory numbness;
  • Bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction;
  • Inability to pass urine.

These symptoms should immediately alert medical professionals towards the possibility of Cauda Equina Syndrome. Tests such as an MRI scan can then be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Cauda Equina and Medical Negligence

When it comes to diagnosing and treating Cauda Equina Syndrome, medical professionals must act quickly. A patient's condition can quickly deteriorate if the nerves remain compressed, and so it should be treated as a medical emergency. If is patient has symptoms for 48 hours or more, he/she will be much less likely to make a full recovery. A patient could, therefore, be left with long-term complications such as bladder problems and sexual dysfunction.

If a doctor fails to interpret a patient's symptoms, then their misdiagnosis could account to medical negligence. This could also be the case if a doctor reaches the correct diagnosis, but does not arrange treatment in a promptly fashion. A medical negligence solicitor will be able to explain in further detail. However, if it is found you were the victim of a substandard level of care, you could be entitled to compensation.

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