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Cauda Equina
Degenerate Spinal Discs Cauda Equina Syndrome

Degenerate Spinal Discs Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome can happen as a result of a degenerating spine. If so, it must be diagnosed and treated immediately.

Prolapsed disc from degenerate spine

The spine gradually degenerates with age. Moisture is lost from the spinal discs, which can also suffer cracks and tears. With time the spine will deteriorate and become weaker. Although this is largely associated with ageing, some people will suffer from a degenerative disc disease, which means their symptoms are more severe and/or occur earlier in life.

Because the spine is weaker, it is more likely that an intervertebral disc will slip or prolapse. Intervertebral discs sit between the bony vertebrae of the spine, absorbing shock and enabling movement.

The discs are made up of an outer fibrous ring and an inner gel-like centre. When the spine has degenerated, the gel-like centre may push through the outer ring, pressing upon the nearby nerves. This is called a prolapsed disc.

Cauda equina syndrome from slipped disc

If a disc prolapses at the L4/L5 or L5/S1 level in the lower back, the protrusion can compress the cauda equina nerves. This will cause cauda equina syndrome. Symptoms will include pain, reduced sensation in the perineum, urethra, buttocks and legs, and urinary dysfunction. There can also be sexual and bowel dysfunction.

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a medical emergency and needs to be treated before the nerves sustain too much damage. There are two main categories of CES incomplete and complete. It is important that the condition is treated during the incomplete stage (the first stage), as this will produce the best outcome.

Complete cauda equina syndrome (the second stage) is associated with the retention of urine in the bladder. This means the patient will not be able to urinate of their own accord. When a patient progresses to this stage the outcome will not be as good.

My cauda equina syndrome was not treated in time

If you developed cauda equina syndrome because of a prolapsed disc but you were not treated quickly enough, there could be a case of medical negligence. Clinicians should recognise the signs of cauda equina nerve compression and act quickly. An emergency MRI scan should be followed by an emergency operation to decompress the nerves.

A failure to achieve this standard of care could amount to medical negligence. If you believe your cauda equina syndrome was not diagnosed and treated within a reasonable amount of time, please get in touch with us to discuss a potential compensation claim.

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