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Raising awareness of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Last week encompassed the first Cauda Equina Syndrome Awareness day. Here at Clarke Willmott we have seen the sometimes catastrophic consequences of failing to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome in a timely manner. It is therefore vital to raise awareness and improve knowledge and understanding about this potentially very serious condition.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome and what are the symptoms?

Cauda equina is a Latin term meaning ‘horses tail’ and refers to the bundle of nerves which are at the bottom of the spinal cord and look like a horses tail. If those nerves become compressed as a result of a slipped disc, tumour, trauma or cyst it will cause symptoms known as ‘red flags.’ Those red flag symptoms are a warning that without urgent treatment, serious permanent injury could result.

Red flag symptoms include:

  • Leg pain or weakness
  • Altered sensation such as pins and needles
  • A change to normal bladder function, including incontinence, inability to pass urine or altered sensation when passing urine
  • Bowel incontinence or reduced sensation when opening bowels
  • Altered sensation in the groin or saddle area including numbness or pins and needles
  • Altered sexual function

The best chance of making a full recovery will happen if patients receive surgery within 24 hours of the onset of those red flag symptoms. After that 24 hour window passes, the longer the symptoms are left the worse the likely outcome and more permanent damage is done. Often patients suffering permanent damage will be unable to work, have poor mobility, be incontinent and suffer from constant chronic pain.

Most patients suffering from cauda equina syndrome have never heard of the condition before suffering it. Unfortunately the symptoms are often not recognised promptly enough by medical professionals, and very often treatment is not prompt enough to prevent permanent damage from occurring. Cauda Equina Syndrome awareness day is an opportunity to raise the awareness of the condition and try to prevent unnecessary injuries occurring in the future. Awareness needs to be raised across the medical profession, including A&E doctors, GP’s, nurses, physiotherapists, spinal surgeons and radiologists to name but a few. A prompt diagnosis made by asking the right questions of a patient can be the difference between the patient returning to a normal life or suffering life changing injuries.

How can Clarke Willmott help?

If you have suffered from cauda equina syndrome please get in touch with our specialist experienced team. We will be happy to discuss the matter with you further and if we are able to assist this will often be on a no win no fee basis. We will be able to investigate the matter for you and help you find out what happened, and obtain compensation to assist with any life changing injuries.

For more support and assistance you can also contact the Cauda Equina Charity

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