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Cauda Equina

Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome & Symptoms

Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome progresses from 'partial' or 'incomplete' to 'established' or 'complete'. Partial cauda equina syndrome means there is still some executive bladder control. When a patient goes into painless urinary retention, the condition is complete.

Treatment must be given while the patient still has partial cauda equina syndrome to ensure the best outcome. Unfortunately treatment will be far less effective if given when the condition is complete.

If you are concerned that you or a family member has been treated inadequately or received no treatment at all whilst displaying partial cauda equina symptoms, please do not delay but call us free now on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry and let us explain your rights and options.

What is Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Partial cauda equina syndrome is also called incomplete cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda equina syndrome is a neurological condition which happens when the cauda equina nerves (located at the base of the spine) are compressed. The nerves are delicate and compression will soon lead to nerve damage, which in turn will lead to nerve dysfunction.

The nerves may become compressed due to a slipped disc, spinal tumour, abscess, infection, inflammation or crushing injuries (to name but a few possible causes).

Partial cauda equina syndrome is the first stage of cauda equina syndrome. Therefore when the nerves initially become compressed, a patient is said to have partial or incomplete cauda equina syndrome.

Partial cauda equina syndrome is associated with a degree of bladder control. There will be some dysfunction, with: difficulty voiding, the need to strain, increased frequency, passing small volumes of urine, retaining urine in the bladder and reduced sensation in the urethra.

But despite these urinary symptoms, the patient will be able to pass some urine. More importantly, the patient will be aware of the need to pass urine and will be able to decide when to void.

Other Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome Symptoms

Along with bladder dysfunction, partial cauda equina syndrome is also associated with the following symptoms:

  • Back pain that extends through the buttocks and legs
  • Numbness around the perineum, buttocks, and external genitalia
  • Bowel dysfunction with constipation or incontinence
  • Reduced anal tone
  • Leg weakness and foot drop

Together these are known as the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

What is complete Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Complete cauda equina syndrome is the second and final stage of cauda equina syndrome. Without treatment a patient will progress from partial to complete.

Where acute cauda equina syndrome is concerned, the condition can go from partial to complete within days. In cases of chronic (slow-onset) cauda equina syndrome, it can take months for the patient's condition to become complete.

The patient can develop complete cauda equina syndrome without realising it. The main indicator is that there will no longer be any sensation in the bladder. Consequently the patient will not realise that he/she needs to pass urine.

The bladder is a reservoir and can only hold so much fluid. Once the capacity is reached, the bladder will overflow, causing the patient to wet themselves. This will be painless due to the loss of sensation. Often the patient will only become aware of the incontinence when she/he notices they have wet clothes or bedsheets.

Treating Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome

Complete cauda equina syndrome signals that the nerves have become extensively damaged. Even if treatment is provided at this stage, it may have little effect upon the eventual outcome.

This means that the condition is best treated when it is still in the partial or incomplete stage. The nerves have some function left and the symptoms can be resolved, or at the very least can be minimised.

Failure to treat Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome

Unfortunately there are times when medical practitioners fail to understand the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome. The patient may be discharged without a diagnosis, given a wrong diagnosis or told to wait for non-urgent tests.

This will be very dangerous because, as described above, the condition can turn from partial to complete very quickly. The patient may become complete after having been discharged, or while awaiting tests or treatment.

If there is a case where the patient develops complete cauda equina syndrome, despite having sought medical help when they were still in the early stages of the condition, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim.

Indeed, medical practitioners should be aware of the symptoms of partial cauda equina syndrome and know that urgent action is needed. Even it transpires that a patient does not have cauda equina syndrome, it is vital that the condition is rapidly confirmed or ruled out as a possible diagnosis.

Claiming for Cauda Equina Syndrome Or Partial Cauda Equina

Was there a delay in diagnosing and treating your cauda equina syndrome, causing you to progress from partial cauda equina syndrome to complete cauda equina syndrome?

If so, you might want to consider getting legal advice from a medical negligence solicitor. It may be that had you received a better standard of care, your current condition would be greatly improved.

This is often the case with cauda equina syndrome, as normal (or nearly normal) function can be regained, as long as doctors act in time. This means diagnosing the condition while the patient has partial cauda equina syndrome, and proceeding straight to emergency decompression surgery.

But if there is any delay, the patient may deteriorate and advance to complete cauda equina syndrome. Sometimes this happens even though doctors have made a diagnosis; they simply have not appreciated the urgency with which treatment is needed.

Compensation For Partial Cauda Equina Syndrome

When you make a cauda equina claim, compensation will be awarded for the wrongful pain and suffering you have endured. Compensation will also be given to reimburse you for all the money you have lost. This includes both past and future earnings. Therefore if you have had to give up your job because of your injuries, you will be able to recover all of the income you have lost.

Although this compensation will never undo the neurological injuries that you now face, it will provide you with financial support. It will also give you a chance to obtain some form of justice.

Make An Enquiry Now

It is vital that you receive early legal advice if you or a relative has suffered from partial or complete cauda equina syndrome. We offer a free, no obligation enquiry.

Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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