Many people go to their doctors complaining of back pain, and very few will require referral to secondary care. However, if neurological signs and bowel and/or bladder symptoms are also present, this may indicate a more serious condition requiring urgent medical attention: cauda equine syndrome. An injury to the cauda equine – the collection of nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord that resemble a horse’s tail – can have disastrous consequences for the sufferer.
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a neurological condition as well as a spinal cord injury. Sometimes initially referred to as a slipped disc, CES occurs when the nerves at the end of the spinal cord become compressed. Depending upon the severity of the compression and where it has occurred, CES can cause a number of injuries, including:
- Lower back pain
- Loss of feeling to genitals and buttocks
- Bladder and/or bowel dysfunction
- Loss of use of lower limbs
CES usually begins with lower back pain, followed by numbness or pins and needles in the lower and or buttocks, leg weakness, and difficulty with bladder and/or bowel control. Patients suffering from CES are typically treated with decompression surgery as soon as possible to reduce the chances of lifelong injuries.
Legal Claims Involving CES
CES claims are usually brought against hospitals, but general practitioners or physiotherapists can also be held liable because of the way the condition progresses. Because early symptoms are not usually severe, patients may seek treatment from their general practitioner, who will refer them to a hospital for treatment if CES is suspected. But if there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment of CES and nerve damage occurs, a legal claim for financial compensation may be made, since CES can progress very quickly and every minute matters.