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Spinal Stenosis and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Spinal Stenosis and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a life-changing condition that needs urgent medical attention. This article will examine how it is linked to Spinal Stenosis, one of its most common causes.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a condition which occurs when the cauda equina nerve roots at the base of the spinal cord become compressed and damaged. It is a condition that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment to avoid the onset of permanent and severe bladder and bowel problems, difficulties with walking, and possible paralysis. It can develop suddenly or gradually and the severity of the symptoms depends on the extent of the compression of the nerves.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome

The symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome can include:

  • numbness or tingling in the groin and buttock area
  • difficulty when walking
  • pain, weakness or tingling in the legs
  • incontinence or loss of sensation when urinating.

The severity of the urinary symptoms signifies whether the patient has 'complete' or 'incomplete' Cauda Equina Syndrome. 'Complete' cauda equina refers to a patient experiencing painless urinary retention and overflow incontinence, whereas an 'incomplete' cauda equina patient experiences altered urinary sensations and/or loss of desire to void.

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is the constriction or narrowing of the spinal canal, which can lead to the compression and damage of the nerves or spinal cord travelling through the spinal canal. Spinal Stenosis in itself can produce a range of life-affecting and distressing conditions.

Cervical and Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis generally affects either the lumbar (or lower) region of the back or the cervical (neck) region of the spine.

Cervical Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal through the upper part of the spine found in the neck. It is a degenerative condition that is generally found to develop gradually in more elderly patients as a result of the aging process. However, it can occasionally occur in younger people, too. Cervical Stenosis can cause a range of symptoms including:

  • problems with fine motor coordination
  • tingling sensation in the arms and legs
  • difficulties with walking/heavy legs
  • spasmodic shooting pains in arms and legs

Cervical stenosis usually requires surgery to try to prevent further compression of the nerves and further deterioration of the patient's faculties.

Lumbar Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower region of the spine. As with cervical stenosis, lumbar stenosis is more frequently seen in older people as the bones and muscles of the back deteriorate with age. However, lumbar stenosis may respond to non-invasive treatments such as exercise or medication, and surgery is not always required. Lumbar Stenosis can cause symptoms such as:

  • lower back and leg pain (sciatica)
  • leg pain when walking which may ease at rest
  • tingling and weakness in lower back and legs.

These symptoms may fluctuate in their severity and occurrence.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis and Cauda Equina

A patient's experience of lumbar stenosis will change dramatically, however, should the narrowing of the spinal canal at this point lead to the compression of the cauda equina nerve roots present at the base of the spinal cord. If Cauda Equina Syndrome develops, medical attention is urgently required.

It is, however, important to note that Lumbar Stenosis does not always lead to Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Why Urgent Treatment of Cauda Equina Is Necessary

If Cauda Equina Syndrome identification and treatment are delayed, devastating conditions may result. Surgery is required to decompress the spinal canal and relieve the pressure on the cauda equina nerve roots. The longer the delay, the greater the likely long-term disability the patient will experience. It has been suggested that surgery should take place within 48 hours to ensure the best likely outcome, although some experts hold the view that treatment should occur within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Medical Negligence and Cauda Equina

If you are suffering the effects of the delayed diagnosis or delayed treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome, and would like to discuss the possibility of a claim for medical negligence with a specialist clinical negligence solicitor, please contact us without delay.

At Glynns Solicitors we have the expertise required to successfully act for people who have had cauda equina syndrome missed or misdiagnosed by a health professional. Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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