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Cauda equina syndrome claims

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition which occurs when the nerves at the base of the spinal cord are compressed. Cauda equina can result in devastating consequences if it is not diagnosed and treated promptly. It should always be treated as a medical emergency.

There are some well known ‘red flags’ which are an indication that you may be developing cauda equina syndrome. The condition can either develop acutely where symptoms come on within 24 hours or it can develop more gradually. Typical red flag symptoms include:

  • Problems urinating – including an inability to urinate, loss of sensation, change in flow, or loss of control of the urge to urinate.
  • “Saddle anaesthesia” – numbness or a change in sensation around the groin, buttocks, genitals, or inner thighs.
  • Leg weakness or pain in one or both legs.
  • Loss of sexual function.
  • Bowel disturbance – either incontinence or a loss of sensation.

If you have any of these symptoms you should seek urgent medical treatment as soon as possible.

When might someone have a claim for cauda equina syndrome?

Often a claim for clinical negligence will arise when a GP or hospital fails to diagnose that a patient has developed cauda equina symptoms. As a consequence, there is a failure to perform the tests which would lead to diagnosis of the condition and as a result there is a delay in performing surgery to decompress the affected nerves. If there is a delay in performing surgery then a patient is likely to be left with permanent and life changing symptoms which they could otherwise have largely recovered from had surgery taken place.

Urgent diagnosis of cauda equina is crucial to urgently relieve the pressure on the nerves. It is essential that surgery is undertaken promptly to prevent or reduce the risk of any permanent damage. As a general rule permanent damage will usually be avoided if surgery is undertaken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. This means that timings are often extremely tight and claims for clinical negligence can often fail. Sadly, even with prompt medical treatment a patient who has suffered from cauda equina may not always recover full function.

What is the result of failing to diagnose cauda equina promptly?

Failing to diagnose and promptly treat a patient with cauda equina can result in severe injury and permanent damage including paralysis of the legs, loss of bladder and bowel function, loss of sexual function and other problems. If your doctor has failed to diagnose and treat your condition correctly then you may be able to make a claim for compensation for clinical negligence.

You will have three years from the date of injury, or date of knowledge of the injury, to bring a claim for clinical negligence. We therefore advise that you seek advice from a legal specialist as soon as possible.

Insufficient awareness of the condition

As clinical negligence solicitors we deal with many occasions where lasting injury could have been avoided with prompt diagnosis and treatment. This statistic could be improved through greater public awareness of the condition so that medical help is sought more quickly by those affected however there is also a clear need for those involved in providing medical treatment to patients to be more aware of the early signs to ensure immediate investigation and treatment takes place.

No amount of compensation can change life for someone who has fallen victim to cauda equina syndrome. If you have been affected by this condition you are likely to have significant and lifelong care needs which can be paid for by a compensation claim.

recent article by the BBC confirmed that claims for delay in diagnosis of cauda equina is costing the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year in compensation.

Contact our medical negligence team

For further information cauda equina syndrome and how to pursue a compensation claim, please contact a member of our expert Medical Negligence team on 0800 316 8892 or get in touch online.

Your key contact

Marguarita Tyne

Head of Personal Injury & Medical Negligence

Marguarita Tyne is a claimant clinical negligence solicitor who investigates and brings claims on behalf of patients who have been injured during the course of their medical treatment, acting mainly (but not exclusively) for brain injury claimants in high value and often complex litigation.
View profile for Marguarita Tyne >

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