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Suspected Cauda Equina Syndrome

Suspected Cauda Equina Syndrome

If cauda equina syndrome is suspected, the patient must have an emergency MRI scan. If the images confirm cauda equina compression, an emergency operation is required.

A failure to treat suspected cauda equina syndrome as an emergency could amount to medical negligence. Please contact us for more information.

CES suspected

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is when the cauda equina nerves, located at the bottom of the spine, are compressed. Compression can happen due to a very large slipped disc, or spinal tumours, abscesses, infection, inflammation and other causes.

Cauda equina syndrome has three categories:

  • 1. CES suspected
  • 2. CES incomplete
  • 3. CES complete

From a medical point of view, CES suspected is the first step towards diagnosing and treating the condition. Clinicians should suspect cauda equina syndrome if the patient is displaying certain 'red flag' symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness around the buttocks, perineum, groin, legs and genitals
  • Pain that runs from the lower back and into both legs
  • Weakness in the legs and feet
  • Difficultly urinating, with poor flow and reduced sensation
  • Bowel and sexual dysfunction

When a patient visits a GP or hospital complaining of these symptoms, medical practitioners should immediately suspect cauda equina syndrome. The next step is to arrange an emergency MRI scan. This is the best way to confirm whether or not cauda equina syndrome is present, as the scan will clearly show if something is pressing upon the nerves.

CES incomplete

If this action is taken in time, the patient should still have incomplete cauda equina syndrome, where there is a degree of bladder function. He/she can then be sent for emergency decompression surgery. If this is achieved within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, there is a good chance of recovery.

CES complete

But if there are delays in medical care, the patient could progress to complete cauda equina syndrome by the time a diagnosis is made. This is when bladder control is lost. Unfortunately CES complete indicates that the nerves have become irreparably damaged. An operation is still needed, but the patient is unlikely to enjoy a good recovery.

Failing to suspect cauda equina syndrome

If medical practitioners fail to suspect cauda equina syndrome, the patient will not undergo urgent investigations and the diagnosis (and ultimately treatment) will be delayed.

If the patient goes on to develop permanent cauda equina injuries because of delays in medical care, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim. Contact us for more information.

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