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Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome Symptoms

Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome Symptoms

Diagnosing and treating cauda equina syndrome whilst it is still 'incomplete' can be crucial in determining the patient's outcome. So, what is 'incomplete' cauda equina syndrome and why does it matter?

Incomplete cauda equina syndrome

The term 'incomplete cauda equina syndrome' refers to a specific point in the development of the condition, in particular in relation to the way in which the compressed nerves are affecting the patient's control of urine.

At its incomplete stage, a patient with cauda equina syndrome should still have some bladder sensation and control, although that experience is likely to be different to their normal bladder function. For example, it may be that they have to strain to wee or that they have difficulty in completely emptying their bladder. It may be that the flow is different and that they have less sensation of the need to wee. However, there is likely to still be some awareness and some control.

Surgery and incomplete cauda equina syndrome

This stage of development is referred to as CES-I and is generally considered the point at which the timing of surgery is most crucial.

Because the patient still retains some neurological function, surgery is required as an emergency in order to try to prevent further loss of function and, possibly, to restore some of the lost function.

If a delay in surgery means that the patient's condition deteriorates to the point of loss of urinary sensation and control, it would seem that there is a reduced chance of recovery of function.

If a person presents to A and E with 'incomplete' symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, they should undergo an MRI scan as a matter of emergency and then, if the scan confirms a diagnosis of compressed cauda equina nerves, they require emergency surgery to decompress the nerves.

Complete cauda equina syndrome

If a patient is not diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome at the 'incomplete' stage, their condition may deteriorate to 'complete' cauda equina syndrome - or CES-R.

At this stage, the patient is likely to have lost urinary sensation and control. They may not know that they need to wee and may, therefore, retain urine. They may also release urine without control, having become incontinent.

The patient is, of course, likely to be experiencing other symptoms, too, such as numbness in the saddle area between the legs and possible weakness or pain in one or both legs. They may also be struggling with control of their bowels and sexual function.

However, the urinary function is frequently taken as the key indicator of the development of the condition and the associated urgency of surgery.

Delayed Surgery

Where delayed diagnosis or surgery has allowed a patient to deteriorate from the 'incomplete' to the 'complete' stage of the condition, meaning that the outcome of decompression surgery may be less positive, the medical practitioners involved might be considered to have been negligent in their care.

In this situation, it may be appropriate for the patient to make a claim for compensation.

Glynns Solicitors have considerable experience of pursuing successful cauda equina syndrome claims and would be happy to discuss your situation with you.

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