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Cauda Equina Syndrome From Central Disc Prolapse

Cauda Equina Syndrome From Central Disc Prolapse

A large central disc prolapse in the lumbar spine can cause cauda equina syndrome, a neurological emergency in which the cauda equina nerves are compressed.

If you develop cauda equina syndrome from a disc prolapse, you need immediate surgery to decompress the nerves. If medical practitioners fail to provide this care, there could be a case of medical negligence.

Cauda equina syndrome from slipped disc

Cauda equina syndrome is often caused by a large, central prolapsed disc. Many people in the UK suffer from a slipped disc and only around 1% of these will go on to develop cauda equina syndrome.

Therefore just because you have a prolapsed disc in the lumbar region does not mean that you will get cauda equina syndrome. Only a few will develop a large central prolapse, although unfortunately it is not possible to predict who will suffer such complications.

How do I know if I've developed cauda equina syndrome?

A small prolapsed disc is associated with pain in one leg, pins and needles, and back pain. Sometimes the pain will cause difficulty urinating because it hurts. This is particularly common in men. A small prolapse will not affect bowel, saddle and sexual function. The 'saddle' refers to the perineum, buttocks and groin.

If you do develop bladder, bowel, saddle and sexual dysfunction, it is an indication that your cauda equina nerves are traumatised. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Loss of sensation around the perineum, buttocks, legs and groin
  • Pins and needles in the legs
  • Bladder dysfunction, with poor flow, reduced sensation and retention of urine
  • Bowel dysfunction, with incontinence or constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction, with loss of sensation/ability to achieve erection/ability to orgasm

These are the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you need to seek immediate medical help. You may already know that you have a disc prolapse, in which case medical practitioners should be especially concerned.

Cauda equina syndrome investigations

If you have symptoms associated with cauda equina syndrome, you need to have an emergency MRI scan. This applies even if you have recently had an MRI scan. It may be that your condition has progressed. Medical practitioners cannot rely on the fact that you had a negative scan three months ago (for instance), as your symptoms indicate that you now have cauda equina syndrome.

Failure to diagnose cauda equina syndrome

If you developed the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome but these were not acted upon by medical practitioners, you could have a case for a medical negligence claim. Please get in touch with us to find out more.

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