Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a condition caused by compression of the cauda equina nerve bundle at the base of the spine. It can cause severe back pain, leg pain, numbness and weakness of the pelvic region and legs, as well as issues with incontinence and sexual function.
If cauda equina syndrome is caught early and treated appropriately many patients will make a full recovery. However, if the problem is diagnosed late or the right treatment is not given quickly, patients can be left with life-long issues, including chronic pain, numbness, incontinence and loss of sexual function.
Recognising cauda equina syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome most commonly occurs in younger people as the result of a ruptured lumbar disc in the spine. These discs sit between the individual vertebrae in the back and, if they rupture, this can cause the nerves of the cauda equina to become trapped and squashed. This often occurs quite suddenly and can be due to a variety of causes.
In older people, damage to the lumbar discs can happen more gradually and is often associated with other spinal issues, for example due to arthritis. This means cauda equina is often not spotted as quickly in older people.
Cauda equina syndrome is also sometimes caused by other issues, including swelling of the surrounding tissue due to infection or due to a tumour.
Cauda equina syndrome is often mistaken for other types of back pain, but the following symptoms can indicate CES:
- Sharp, severe lower back pain
- Radiant, shooting pain in one or both legs
- Weakness or numbness in one or both legs
- Numbness of the lower body, including buttocks, pelvic region, inner thighs, backs of the legs and feet
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction e.g. loss of sensation or erectile dysfunction
If you experience any of these symptoms it is recommended to speak to a doctor at the earliest opportunity.
Treating cauda equina syndrome
There are various treatments that can be used for cauda equina syndrome and related symptoms, including medication. However, lumbar decompression surgery is usually required to deal with the underlying issue and relieve the pressure on the cauda equina nerve bundle.
If you are diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, this will generally result in emergency hospital admission and emergency surgery as the longer doctors wait to perform surgery, the more likely it is that there will be permanent damage and the more severe that damage is likely to be.
After surgery, you will likely be given on-going treatment, including medication as well as potentially physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and other support to help you deal with any permanent physical and emotional effects.
Getting the support you need for cauda equina syndrome
If you have been left with permanent health consequences due to late diagnosis, misdiagnosis or negligent treatment for cauda equina syndrome, you may be able to make a medical negligence claim.
Cauda equina syndrome claims can help compensate you for the physical and emotional suffering you have experienced and continue to experience, as well as ensuring you can pay for on-going treatment and support you need, as well as replacing lost income if you have to take time off work.