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How Common is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

How Common is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is often described as rare, but exactly how rare is it? In this article we explore the incidence rates of cauda equina syndrome, giving you a better idea of how common the condition is.

How many people get cauda equina syndrome?

Not very many people get cauda equina syndrome. It is more likely to affect adults than children, particularly adults with a weak spine or those who regularly lift heavy objects.

In the UK, cauda equina syndrome is estimated to affect between 1 and 3 people in every 100,000 of the population. Of these, most will have developed cauda equina syndrome as a result of a slipped disc.

The same is true in other parts of world. In the USA it is estimated that 0.12% of herniated discs lead to cauda equina syndrome. A Slovenian study found that every year, cauda equina syndrome caused by a herniated disc affects 1.8 people in every million of the population.

However it should be noted that the statistics are not considered entirely reliable as the lack of reporting may mean that the numbers are underestimated.

How Common is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Theoretically anyone can get cauda equina syndrome. It is very unusual in children and is much more likely to affect young to middle-aged adults. There are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of cauda equina syndrome developing, including:

  • Slipped disc in the lower back
  • Lesions on the spine e.g. abscess or tumour
  • Arthritis in the spine
  • Congenital spinal disorders
  • Heavy lifting

Nevertheless the individual may not actually be aware that they have these risk factors. Indeed, some people will not know about their slipped disc because they have never sought medical attention. Others will have a weakness in their back that they live with for years without experiencing any issues.

Do doctors know about cauda equina syndrome?

Although cauda equina syndrome is not a frequently occurring condition, medical practitioners in the UK should be conscious of the problem and know what the red flag symptoms look like.

A competent medical practitioner would send a patient with the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome for an emergency MRI scan, which would lead to nerve compression being confirmed and emergency surgery being carried out.

A failure to achieve this standard of care could be considered negligent. If you or your loved one has suffer cauda equina medical negligence, please get in touch with us to discuss a potential claim.

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