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Permanent Cauda Equina Symptoms

Permanent Cauda Equina Symptoms

If cauda equina syndrome is not treated quickly enough with decompression surgery, the patient will be left with permanent cauda equina symptoms. These can include some, or all, of the following:


Pain can be present in the lower back, extending from the buttock to the ankle and foot. This may occur in one or both legs. This can cause problems with weight-bearing, making the patient clumsy and stumbling. The pain may be aggravated by sitting, standing or walking for too long, and can continue throughout the day and the night. The pain can also be aggravated by cold temperatures, while the pain sensation may change from 'burning' to a sharp stabbing pain.

Leg Spasms

Leg spasms may arise in one or both legs, preventing the patient from walking. Again, this symptom can be aggravated by the cold weather and by prolonged standing or walking.

Bladder dysfunction

The patient may be unable to pass urine spontaneously and will therefore be dependent upon self-catheterisation. There may be no sensation of bladder fullness, and no sensation of passing the catheter. As a result there can be frequent episodes of incontinence. The use of intermittent self-catheterisation can lead to repeat urinary tract infections.

Bowel dysfunction

The patient may not be aware of the need to empty the rectum. This can result in incontinence, especially if the patient is unwell with diarrhoea. There may also be a degree of constipation, which is often caused by pain-relieving medication. Stool-softens may be ingested, and a patient may even need to evacuate their bowels manually with an enema.

Sexual dysfunction

There may be no sexual sensation, and male patient may be unable to achieve an erection.


There may be numbness around the buttocks, saddle area and genitals. This can extend to the legs and soles of the feet. The numbness may also be associated with a feeling of pins and needles.

Leg weakness and foot drop

The legs may be weak and clumsy, making the patient unsteady on their feet. One or both feet may also have 'dropped', exacerbating the situation. The patient may suffer significant stumbles and falls.

Impaired mobility

This can severely impair the patient's mobility, and he/she may be dependent upon crutches or require a wheelchair.

Impaired mood

These physical problems can leave the patient low in mood. He/she may describe feeling embarrassed and frustrated by their condition. Anti-depressant medication and counselling may be required.

Have you been left with cauda equina symptoms?

If you have been left with the cauda equina symptoms described above because of substandard medical care, you could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Please get in touch with us to find out more.

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