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Cauda Equina Syndrome Red Flags

Cauda Equina Syndrome Red Flags

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a medical emergency if the patient is not to be left with devastating, life-changing disability. It is vital that medical practitioners are aware of the red flags associated with the condition and act on them promptly.

What are 'red flags'?

In medical terms, red flags are key symptoms or signs specific to a condition -that should suggest to medical practitioners that there is a serious underlying problem. Medical practitioners should be aware of the red flags of medical disorders that are likely to require emergency treatment.

What are the cauda equina syndrome 'red flags'?

Cauda equina syndrome has a very specific profile and its red flag signs and symptoms are clear:

  • Numbness around the saddle area (genitals, buttocks, between the legs)
  • Urinary difficulties such as poor flow, urgency, retention of urine, loss of sensation when urinating
  • Sciatica-like pain in one or both legs, or weakness in the legs
  • Sexual dysfunction or loss of sensation

These symptoms are being caused by compression of the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spinal cord. These nerves control the bladder and bowel, as well as the experience of sensations around the buttocks and the movement and feeling in the legs. It is, therefore these areas of the body that are affected if the cauda equina nerves are being damaged.

What action is necessary if red flags symptoms are present?

If these symptoms are present, the patient requires an emergency MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome. If a positive diagnosis is made, the patient requires an emergency surgical decompression of the cauda equina nerves. It is generally felt that surgery is necessary within 48 hours in order to give the patient the best chance of making a full recovery.

If the symptoms go unrecognised and diagnosis is delayed, the patient's condition could progress to 'complete' cauda equina syndrome where the long-term outcome is less likely to be successful. 'Complete' cauda equina syndrome is identified by urinary incontinence and painless retention of urine. Without emergency surgery, the patient can suffer life-long sexual, faecal and urinary dysfunction, and even paralysis.

Medical Negligence and Cauda Equina Syndrome

It can therefore be seen that, because the need for surgery is urgent and the long-term effects are potentially extremely distressing, prompt diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome are vital. If your medical practitioner failed to pay heed to your red flag symptoms or acted without the necessary urgency, leaving you with long-term symptoms, you may be able to claim for compensation that could help you cope with your on-going problems.

Speak to a solicitor

Glynns Solicitors is a specialist medical negligence practice with extensive experience of cauda equina syndrome cases. Contact us today to discuss your situation.

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