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Cauda Equina
Leg Weakness and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Leg Weakness and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome frequently presents with dramatic symptoms of the bladder, bowel and sexual region. However, alterations in functioning of the legs can also be an indication that you may be developing the condition.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Symdrome

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by compression of the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spinal cord. Because these nerves control movement and sensation in the lower part of the body, the symptoms of this condition can be both devastating and diverse.

Red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome usually include the following lower body symptoms:

  • Lower back pain
  • Bilateral sciatica
  • Bilateral tingling or numbness
  • Bilateral weakness
  • Numbness in the 'saddle' region
  • Altered bladder/bowel function
  • Altered sexual function

Symptoms in the legs

The effects of cauda equina syndrome in the legs can ultimately lead to paralysis of the legs due to the loss of awareness of sensation in the legs as well as the loss of the ability to control muscles, tendons and reflexes in the legs and feet.

Damage to the femoral nerve can lead to a reduced ability to extend the legs as well as flexing the leg, along with loss of sensation or tingling, numbness and pain on the surfaces of the thighs.

The patient can also lose control of the ability to flex the ankle, thus leading to what is referred to as 'foot drop', making it difficult to walk without artificial aids.

Testing for symptoms in the legs

The functioning of the nerves can be assessed through a 'straight leg raise' test. In this test, the patient lies on their back and raises one leg straight to the point where they begin to experience pain in the associated muscles - thigh, buttock and calf. The GP or A and E practitioner will then record the angle at which the pain is first felt, indicating whether or not the patient may be experiencing nerve damage.

The patient may also be observed walking in order to assess the presence of 'foot drop' as well as undergoing an examination of the muscles and surface of the lower leg.

Recovery of function

Recovery of sensation and function in the legs may depend on the timing and success of surgery to decompress the damaged nerves.

Studies have suggested that prompt - emergency - surgery is most likely to provide the best outcome for a patient suffering from cauda equina syndrome. Although receiver is not always assured, a delay in diagnosis and surgery is likely to lead to a deterioration in function.

Medical Negligence

If you continue to suffer with the distressing long-term symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. If your diagnosis and/or surgery were delayed, possibly leading to a poorer outcome, you may have been the victim of medical negligence.

Contact Glynns Solicitors, a specialist medical negligence practice with expertise in cauda equina syndrome cases.

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