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Medical Negligence

We have specialist Medical Negligence Claim Solicitors ready to help you across Great Britain


Cauda Equina Syndrome

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina syndrome (CES) is a condition that occurs when the bundle of nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some of the most common include trauma, tumour, slipped disc and infection. These nerves control the movement and feeling of the legs and lower abdomen. When the nerves become compressed in this way, it is of the utmost importance that medical intervention is given as quickly as possible. If pressure continues to be placed upon the nerves for too long, they will suffer irreparable damage, leaving a patient with long-term complications of a serious and life-changing nature. Medical staff should recognise the symptoms of this condition which may include pain and numbness in the legs and back and loss of bladder control. With rapid treatment symptoms can be alleviated and controlled.

Cauda Equina Symptoms

Cauda Equina symptoms affect the lower part of the body. The most prominent symptoms being:

  • Bilateral or unilateral leg pain.
  • Sciatica - Pain beginning in the buttocks and extending downwards to thighs and calves.
  • Area of numbness from the waist down.
  • Bowel and bladder issues, including incontinence, urinary retention and urinary hesitancy.
  • A deep localised lower back pain radiating from the affected region.
  • Radicular pain: a sharp stabbing pain affecting specific areas of the legs controlled by the compressed nerve.

What are the red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) are all characteristic of spinal nerve damage, and together should alert medical professionals to the possibility of cauda equina compression. That is exactly why they are called ‘red flag’ symptoms, as they should act as a warning signal, prompting doctors into taking immediate action.

The red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome include the following:-

  • Chronic back pain;
  • Recent onset of bladder dysfunction;
  • Numbness in the perineum;
  • Loss of anal tone;
  • Weakness and poor reflexes in the legs.

Quite understandably these symptoms are both uncomfortable and worrying. A medical professional should be sensitive to the warning signs of this syndrome and immediate action should be taken to alleviate the symptoms. This may involve emergency surgical intervention.

Cauda Equina symptoms have the potential to become permanent should the condition not be treated rapidly. The condition may result in permanent nerve damage. If you or a loved one suffered from Cauda Equina unnecessarily, or experienced a delay in diagnosis that has led to adverse effects, you may qualify to make a medical negligence claim. If this has happened to you, in that a delay has caused you to suffer serious cauda equina complications, contact us today at 1stClaims to discuss making a compensation claim on 0800 2888 693 or complete an online enquiry to receive free, impartial legal advice..

Cauda Equina Treatment

Cauda Equina syndrome is a surgical emergency and medical attention should be sought immediately. In no circumstances should the symptoms be ignored, or treated at home, they are serious and potentially permanent. If a patient presents to their GP or Accident and Emergency department with these symptoms, it is essential the correct course of action is followed.

Firstly, it is highly important an accurate diagnosis is made in a timely fashion. There is no reason why a competent doctor should not be able to recognise the red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Secondly, once a putative diagnosis of CES is made, medical professionals should take steps to discover whether or not their suspicions are correct. This should involve a series of tests, including a physical examination, blood and urine tests, and most importantly, an urgent MRI scan. Together these will help determine whether a patient does indeed have Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Lastly, if a positive diagnosis is made, a patient should be sent for emergency decompression surgery to alleviate the pressure being placed upon the nerves.

Treatment of the condition will depend on the underlying causes of the syndrome. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be appropriate should the Cauda Equina result from an inflammatory disorder. Antibiotics may be effective should the syndrome be caused by infection. In cases of Cauda Equina caused by a tumour, the tumour will require surgical attention in the cases in which it is operable and chemotherapy/radiotherapy treatment may be pursued.

Early Surgical Intervention for Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Many cases however require emergency surgical intervention. Generally decompression surgery is deemed to be most effective when initiated within 48 hours of the onset of the initial symptoms. For the best neurological recovery surgery is advised as to be performed as rapidly as possible. Decompression surgery's main aim is to alleviate pressure at the base of the spine, removing the compressing structures and creating more space for the nerves in the spinal canal. Often a portion of the bone and tissue surrounding the affected area will be removed.

As long as treatment is given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, a patient has a good chance of making a full recovery. Any longer than this and it is possible that the nerves will be permanently damaged. This will cause long-lasting injuries such as urinary and bowel problems, sexual dysfunction, continued pain and immobility. In some patients, a setback in treatment will cause paralysis of the lower body.

Cauda Equina Claims

Depending on the severity of the initial symptoms recovery rates will vary. In some cases symptoms can become permanent. If you have suffered long-term complications as a result of Cauda Equina Syndrome, you need to consider if medical professionals are responsible for the injuries you have sustained. For example, did healthcare staff recognise the severity of your symptoms? Were additional tests carried out to confirm nerve compression? Was a diagnosis made in a timely fashion? And was treatment arranged promptly? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you may well have been the victim of a substandard level of care.

Medical staff should recognise the symptoms of this condition which may include pain and numbness in the legs and back and loss of bladder control. Patients with these symptoms need immediate attention, urgent scans and examination by a neurosurgeon so surgical intervention can be considered.

There are four key situations in which there are warning signs that you may have been a victim of medical negligence. In situations of medical negligence you may be able to make a compensation claim.

1. Delayed Diagnosis: Should you have symptoms for Cauda Equina which are not recognised rapidly enough this can have devastating effects. If your Cauda Equina is deemed to have been diagnosable by a reasonable body of medical professionals then you make have grounds for a compensation claim.

2. Delayed Treatment: In a situation where you have not received appropriate treatment for your Cauda Equina, you may have been a victim of medical negligence. Delayed treatment may coincide with a delayed diagnosis. It may also be a result of delayed scans, or delayed surgery. Surgery is considered most effective if performed within 48 hours of the onset of initial Cauda Equina symptoms. Symptoms may become permanent is surgery is delayed beyond this.

3. Inappropriate Treatment: Cauda Equina has multiple causes but more often than not surgical intervention will be necessary to alleviate the symptoms. Should your doctor have prescribed you anti-inflammatory drugs, or antibiotics as treatment for Cauda Equina when surgical intervention was most appropriate considering the underlying cause of the syndrome, you may have a viable basis for a claim.

4. Surgical Negligence: In some circumstances Cauda Equina may be a result of surgical negligence. This is serious as it may occur in cases where spinal surgery has been performed and screws have been misplaced in the spine. Here you should have grounds for a medical negligence claim.

Although these are common scenarios in which a negligence claim may be able to be pursued they are by no means the only ones. Every situation is different and your personal circumstances will be highly subjective. Should you be confused as to whether you qualify to make a claim, contact 1st Claims today. 1st Claims offer a completely free initial enquiry in which we will advise you as to the best course of action, and as to whether your claim has a likelihood of success.


1stClaims does not charge you for using our service and all initial enquiries with our Solicitors are also free of charge, so rest assured, this initial step of making an enquiry will not cost you anything.

Once one of our Solicitors has assessed the merits of your enquiry they will make a judgement on the likely chances of bringing a successful claim and if the prospects are good, they will normally offer to take your case on a No Win No Fee basis. NOTE: If your case is successful your Solicitor will deduct up to a maximum of 25% of your final settlement or compensation award as payment for their fees. You can find out more about No Win No Fee arrangements and the potential costs that can be incurred by clicking here.

What makes 1stClaims different from other claims companies or solicitors?

1stClaims have had years of experience in the claims sector, therefore we have a wealth of specialist contacts that we are proud to be able to share with you, our client. Contacting 1stClaims will ensure you are referred to a specialist solicitor with expert knowledge of Cauda Equina syndrome. This will guarantee highly tailored legal advice, helping you receive the compensation you deserve whilst providing you with the best solicitor for you.

Any delay in diagnosis, referral for scans or to see a neurosurgeon can sometimes cause irreparable damage and in some instances even paralysis. If you or a member of your family has suffered from cauda equina syndrome and believe there was a delay in the diagnosis or appropriate treatment of the prolapsed disc, you may have a claim for medical negligence. You should contact 1stClaims who will refer you to a specialist solicitor with expert knowledge of cauda equina syndrome.

Let Us Help You

If you would like 1stClaims' expert Medical Negligence Solicitors on your side please call us free on 0800 2888 693 (from a mobile click to call: 01348 630 720) or complete our Free Claim Enquiry form now and we will be in touch with you very soon. To return to the medical negligence home page please click here.

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