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Delayed Diagnosis of Cauda Equina

Delayed Diagnosis Of Cauda Equina

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious condition which must be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. If there is a delay, it is unlikely a full recovery will be made, causing a patient to suffer long-term complications.

Causes and Symptoms of Cauda Equine Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome occurs when the bundles of nerves located at the bottom of the spinal cord, called the 'cauda equina', become compressed or inflamed. This may happen due to an incidence of trauma (such as a car crash) or because of a medical condition (such as tumours, infection or spinal stenosis).

With the onset of Cauda Equina Syndrome, a patient will experience sudden and severe lower back pain, which may extend to the buttocks and legs. Within a relatively short space of time, numbness or a tingling sensation will materialise in the buttocks and perineal region. Bowel and bladders problems will quickly develop, including urinary retention, increased urgency and frequency, urinary incontinence, and a loss of anal tone.

Diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome

When a patient presents with these symptoms, they should act as a red flag, warning doctors to the presence of Cauda Equina Syndrome. However, there are unfortunately times when medical professionals fail to recognise the symptoms, instead diagnosing a patient with a more minor condition such as a urinary tract infection.

To ensure Cauda Equina is not wrongly diagnosed, a doctor should first take account of a patient's symptoms and perform some simple diagnostic tests. This should involve a physical examination to test:-

  • Anal tone (with a digital rectal examination);
  • Muscle strength in the legs;
  • Sensation to touch and pain in the lower regions;
  • Checking reflexes in the lower extremities.

The results of a physical examination should be sufficient for a medical professional to make a firm diagnosis. However, an MRI may prove useful to ensure the diagnosis is correct.

Consequences of a Delay in Diagnosis

It is important surgery is performed to decompress the nerves as soon as possible. If a patient is not diagnosed in a prompt fashion, their condition will quickly deteriorate and their nerves will suffer extensive damage. When there is a delay, it becomes less and less likely that a patient will make a 100% recovery, as there is more chance the nerves will be permanently damaged. This will leave a patient with long-term complications, including:-

  • Total or partial paralysis in the legs;
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control;
  • Loss of sensation in the groin and legs;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Pain and discomfort;
  • The need to self-catheterise.

Making a Claim

If you have had Cauda Equina Syndrome which was not diagnosed in a timely fashion, you will have undoubtedly experienced a great deal of pain and suffering. Your life will have been completely turned upside down, while you may never return to your former state of health. That is why you need to speak to a medical negligence solicitor, as you could be entitled to compensation for the damage you have been caused not only physically, but also financially and emotionally.

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