What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
The cauda equina is a group of nerves located at the base of the spinal cord which extend down the back of each leg, it’s name deriving from the Latin term for ‘horses tail’ due to it’s appearance. Cauda equina syndrome occurs when the nerves at the base of the spinal cord swell due to extreme pressure. This swelling can cause serious pain, and requires serious medical attention at the earliest possible stage. Failure to treat cauda equina syndrome early on can cause irreparable damage to the nerves and result in permanent paralysis, difficulty walking and adverse affects on your bladder and bowel movements.
What causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?
When the nerves at the base of the spine become swollen from pressure, cauda equina syndrome is likely to develop. The causes of this pressure can vary, but in each case, it must be treated as promptly as possible. Cauda equina syndrome can develop as a result of a spinal condition such as lumbar herniated disc or lumbar spinal stenosis. It may also stem from an inflammatory condition, a tumour or an infection in the spinal canal such as ankylosing spondylitis. While we are more susceptible to these conditions with age, cauda equina syndrome can also be caused by an injury or attack in which the lower back was affected. Causes range from client to client, which is why our solicitors believe the first step in your claim is for us to gain a full understanding of how the pain developed. That way, we can work on building a strong evidence-based claim against your doctor or surgeon.
What are the symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are variable in onset and intensity, but tend to include one or more of the following:
1. Saddle numbness:
- Loss of feeling between the legs;
- Numbness in or around the back passage and/or genitals;
- Inability to feel the toilet paper when wiping.
2. Bowel disturbance:
- Inability to stop a bowel movement;
- Loss of sensation when passing a bowel movement.
3. Back pain/sciatica/leg weakness:
- It is common to have a combination of back pain, leg pain, leg numbness and/or weakness. It is important to note that these symptoms, however, are common in people who have a history of back problems but do not have Cauda Equina syndrome.
4. Bladder disturbance:
- Inability to urinate (about 50-70% of patients have urinary retention on presentation);
- Difficulty initiating urination;
- Loss of sensation when you pass urine;
- Inability to stop or control urination;
- Loss of the full bladder sensation.
5. Sexual problems:
- Inability to achieve an erection or ejaculate;
- Loss of sensation during intercourse;
- Loss of clitoral sensation.
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Most cases of cauda equina are of sudden onset and progress rapidly within hours or days. However cauda equina syndrome can evolve slowly and patients do not always complain of pain.
If a doctor has misdiagnosed your condition after assessing your symptoms, or has delayed in giving you a diagnosis, you are within your legal rights to claim compensation for their negligence.
How common is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
In 2014, around 40,000 people in the UK were estimated to be suffering from an on-going spinal cord injury of some form. One of the most common spinal conditions is herniated lumbar discs or ‘slipped disc’, which generally occurs in middle-aged and the elderly, and is one of the leading causes of cauda equina syndrome. From each case of herniated lumbar disc, it’s estimated that 2% of sufferers will go on to develop cauda equina syndrome as a result.
The most common age range for cauda equina to occur is 40-60, although children are not immune from CES.
While cauda equina syndrome is a rare condition, certain factors can increase your risk of developing it. If you are already suffering from a spinal condition such as spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the spinal canal) or a birth defect that affects the spine, it’s your doctor’s responsibility to take necessary measures in ensuring your condition does not worsen in any way. Any spinal injuries you have suffered can also increase your risk of cauda equina, which is why treating any back problems promptly is vital in minimising this risk.
Living with Cauda Equina
Cauda equina suffers often require expensive treatment, aids and adaptations in order improve their quality of life, for example:
- Cauda equina sufferers will often need a wheelchair to mobilise outside and walking aids for indoor mobility due to problems with their legs.;
- Ongoing physiotherapy is also frequently recommended to ensure adequate activity to compensate for reduced mobility;
- Catheters and/or sanitary padding are often needed in relation to bladder and bowel management.
- Cauda equina suffers may also require adaptations to their homes in order e.g. levelling floors and widening of door frames to accommodate wheelchairs
How do I make a compensation claim for Cauda Equina Syndrome?
If you believe that your trusted doctor has behaved in a negligent way – either by misdiagnosing you, delaying in your diagnosis or were careless in treating you, speak to a qualified legal professional at the earliest possible stage. After gaining a comprehensive understanding of your circumstances, our specialist solicitors will organise for an independent medical professional to assess your condition. From this, a report will be drafted regarding your current circumstances, the severity of your condition and the details of when and how the pain developed. Using your own medical records and the assessment of a professional, we’ll be able to build your cauda equina syndrome claim against your doctor, requesting a fair settlement to compensate you for your suffering. At this stage, the outcome depends on whether or not your doctor accepts liability and agrees to pay the compensation laid out in the request. They may accept their negligence but wish to negotiate the settlement, or it may be the case that they deny liability altogether. In any case, our expert solicitors will be by your side for pragmatic advice and representation to see your claim through.
How long will the whole process of claiming compensation take?
When you instruct our solicitors, we’ll aim to process your claim and secure compensation as quickly and efficiently as possible. We know that suffering from cauda equina syndrome can be excruciatingly painful, and our priority is to ensure you’re on the road to recovery as soon as possible. Where possible, we’ll do all in our ability to keep time to a minimum; however, we also know that the most successful claims come from strong evidence, which is why we will never cut corners in understanding your situation and details surrounding your condition. If delays occur, you can rest assured that you’ll always be kept in the loop at each stage of your claim.
What are the time limits on making a compensation claim for Cauda Equina Syndrome?
From the date you are made aware of your condition, you have three years in which to take legal action and make a claim against the doctor responsible. In cases where the patient is below the age of 18, the three-year time limit begins from the date of their 18th birthday.
How much compensation can I get for Cauda Equina Syndrome?
In all medical negligence claims, compensation is calculated by the severity of your injuries and how these injuries will affect your quality of life. The amount of compensation awarded will be based on the impact your doctors negligence had on your existing condition. If the delay in your diagnosis has lead to disability and a drastic change to your lifestyle, you may see substantial compensation to help meet your new requirements such as new adaptations to your home. If cauda equina syndrome has left you unable to work leaving your finances at risk, this will be taken into account when calculating compensation. Cases vary patient to patient, which is why we will only give you an estimation of the sum you may receive after initially discussing your claim with you in depth.
At IBB Claims, we know how great an impact cauda equina syndrome can have on a person’s health, well being and overall quality of life. When your doctor has breached their duty of care and caused increased pain and suffering, we believe that legal action is necessary for claiming compensation to help you through rehabilitation and recovery. From start to finish, we’ll be by your side for expert advice and representation.
If you think that you may have suffered from a delay in diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome, please contact our specialist medical negligence lawyers on 0333 323 1638 or firstname.lastname@example.org to explore the potential for bringing a claim for compensation.