When Medical Negligence Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome

Although relatively rare, Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious condition that can be caused by medical negligence due to damage to the bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal cord between the first and second lumbar vertebrae at the lower back. These spinal nerves make a formation similar to a ‘horse’s tail’. In Latin, this is known as cauda equina. Cauda Equina Syndrome relates to an injury to these spinal nerves.

As these nerves control a variety of lower body functions, improper or delayed treatment can cause a wide range of impairments. These can include one or more impairments such as an impaired bladder and impaired bowel control, paralysis, difficulty walking, and other physical or neurological damages.

Cauda Equina Due to Medical Negligence

This syndrome can develop extremely quickly and there is only a short period of time for the syndrome to be treated effectively. Due to how rare Cauda Equina Syndrome is, it can be misdiagnosed as back pain. Failure of recognising the symptoms of the syndrome can cause lifelong consequences.

When the diagnosis is completely missed or delayed, this spinal injury becomes medical negligence. Spinal injuries can deeply affect brain, motor, and nerve functions; you are owed duty of care from medical staff during your stay or visit at the hospital, including post-operative care and surgeries.

What Can Cause Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Pressure to the spinal nerves can occur due to a wide variety of reasons, which need to be addressed by medical staff as quick as possible:

  • A spinal epidural abscess causing an infection in the spinal canal.
  • A slipped disc (herniated disc).
  • Surgical errors.
  • Narrowing of the spaces in the spine (lumbar spinal stenosis).
  • A car accident or a fall causing trauma to the spine.
  • Tissue growths.
  • Injuries to the lower back.
  • It’s recommended that Cauda Equina Syndrome is treated within eight hours of the symptoms presenting, as the pressure to the nerves needs to be eliminated or reduced with emergency surgical decompression. From 24 to 48 hours after the symptoms, surgery is typically needed to ensure an improved motor and sensory response, such as bowel and bladder functions.

    Should more than 48 hours pass, the decompression of the nerves won’t be enough to prevent extensive damage. Long-term complications such as loss of bowel and bladder control and paralysis can occur. Quick and effective medical treatment is needed to prevent these long-term complications.

    Common Symptoms of the Syndrome

    Symptoms will vary in intensity and can evolve over time if not addressed. This syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, which is typically done through the evaluation of your medical history, a physical examination, and undertaking diagnostic imaging.

    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-rays, or computer tomography (CT) scans may be needed to aid doctors in assessing and diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome. Symptoms may include sciatica-type pain, bowel and bladder dysfunction, severe back pain, and saddle anaesthesia (numbness of the inner thighs and groin areas).

    Spinal injuries can be quite traumatic and deeply affect you and your family. With potential high costs of long-term care, making a claim due to medical negligence can often provide the financial help needed to reduce the strain of your daily life.