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Cauda equina syndrome is caused by compression of the nerve bundle, said to resemble a horse’s tail, in the lower back and generally requires urgent surgical treatment. It can result from traumatic injury but more common causes are misdiagnosis or injury during negligent surgery. If this is the case, a claim may be possible.
Compression can be caused by slipped disc or a tumour, but the longer it continues, the more likely there is to be long-term neurological damage. If action is not taken swiftly cauda equina syndrome can result. Permanent effects can include constant pain, loss of sexual function, bowel and bladder difficulties and weakness in the legs.
Diagnosis is often delayed as the bladder, bowel and sexual problems associated with cauda equina can have a variety of causes. When a diagnosis has been made, usually confirmed by an MRI scan, surgical decompression is the recommended treatment. However, this operation also carries the risk of further damage to the nerve roots.
A delay in diagnosis and treatment can have devastating consequences. 87% of patients who have surgery within 24 hours of a diagnosis of cauda equina recover normal bladder function, but only 43% do so if their treatment is delayed even a few hours beyond that.
If you suffer cauda equina because of sub-standard care, you and your family will need more than just financial compensation. Our clinical negligence team can help in a number of ways, arranging expert advice for advice about state benefits and putting you in touch with support groups.
For more information on cauda equina syndrome click on the links below:
Cauda Equina Syndrome is relatively rare. There are only about 100 new cases annually in England but it is estimated that at least 10% of these are mismanaged, mainly by the accident and emergency department or the in-patient management team.
Cauda equina syndrome can be described as either being ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’. Complete cauda equina means the nerves to the bladder are so damaged that urine is painlessly retained and overflows. Incomplete cauda equina is characterised by the need to strain to pass urine, possibly needing to use abdominal compression to assist in the process.
Other cauda equina symptoms include low back pain or leg pain. Muscle weakness and loss of foot sensation are also common. Cauda equina syndrome is still not very well known by the medical profession and many clinicians fail to diagnose it or give appropriate warnings to patients.
Anyone who has concerns about this condition can contact the Cauda Equina Syndrome Support Group. This victim-run website aims to increase awareness of cauda equina syndrome among the public and the medical community.
There is a very small window of opportunity in which to be referred to an appropriate hospital, confirm the diagnosis by MRI scan and then proceed to surgery if the debilitating effects of cauda equina syndrome are to be avoided. If negligence by medical staff at any point causes a delay in getting that treatment, you may have a case for a compensation claim.
Establishing if you have a case for making a compensation claim depends on whether our expert lawyers can show that there was a breach of the duty owed to you by the doctors or surgeons involved.
We need to prove that doctors failed to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of a conditions, such as a prolapsed disc, that lead to cauda equina syndrome meaning you did not get the appropriate treatment in time. GPs who miss signs of cauda equina or failed to refer you for further investigations may also be considered negligent. Surgeons who made avoidable errors or delayed spinal surgery may similarly have neglected their duty of care towards you.
The standard of that proof we need in these cases is ‘the balance of probability' i.e. a greater than 50% likelihood that it was those failures that were directly responsible for the injuries and actual physical harm you suffered.
There are time limits within which you can claim so whatever your circumstances you should contact Access Legal as soon as is practicable. We can give you free initial advice about whether a claim is possible and establish what additional treatments you may require to help you deal with the future.
Cauda equina claims are challenging, lengthy and complex. The first thing to do is to contact an expert law firm like Access Legal which specialises in this sort of work and can advise you if you have a case that is likely to succeed.
This is specialist work requiring both legal and medical knowledge to understand and appreciate what evidence is required and to interpret that evidence when it is obtained.
Your lawyers must have relationships with the appropriate medical experts who can assess whether your care was indeed sub-standard, conforming for example to NICE guidelines on the treatment of cauda equina syndrome. Their input will be absolutely crucial to your recovery and the success of your compensation claim.
Access Legal must show that the failure or delay in diagnosing your problems, and the impact that may have had on you receiving prompt treatment, was negligent. We must be able to prove that, in all likelihood, you suffered harm as a direct consequence of that sub-standard care.
If you are worried about the treatment (or failure to treat you) that you received you should seek advice from a specialist solicitor straight away. There are time limits to making these claims and it is best if we speak with you as soon as possible after the event so things are still fresh in your mind.
If you feel you may have a case, call us for a free initial consultation. Our priority will always be your best interests and well-being. We can give you the benefit of our experience in such claims as well as an objective assessment of the likely success of your claim.
Award for negligent delay in performing emergency spinal surgery for slipped disc
Alicia was a successful self-employed conference organiser and ran her own photography business in Birmingham. Following a period of minor back problems, she awoke one morning to find that she had developed severe back pain.
Although the warning signs of a slipped disc where there, Alicia was discharged that day, without an MRI scan.
Read about how Access Legal helped their client secure the compensation she deserved here.
'I would like to thank my team at Access Legal for their enduring care and support throughout my claim over the past six years.'
Heather Tait, client who suffered cauda equina syndrome due to delayed diagnosis of a prolapsed disc.
Our expert medical negligence solicitors understand what you are going through and can give guidance, advice and support for as long as it takes to resolve a cauda equina syndrome compensation claim.Why Access Legal