Studies show that Cauda Equina Syndrome (‘CES’) is a relatively rare condition, with a prevalence in the general population estimated between 1 in 33,000 to 1 in 100,000.

While rare, it is a very serious condition: a medical emergency.  Misdiagnosis or negligent delay in medical attention usually has very serious consequences.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome and what are it’s causes?

CES occurs when those nerve roots known as the cauda equina in the lower spine, which fan out a bit like a horse’s tail, become compressed.  The cauda equina nerves are responsible for sending and receiving messages to and from the lower limbs and pelvic organs.  A compression can sever the nerves, cutting off sensation and movement.

CES is more likely to occur in adults than in children with the most common causes being:

  • Herniated disc
  • Complications arising from severe lumbar spinal injuries
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis)
  • A spinal haemorrhage or infection
  • Spinal tumours of the cauda equina

Symptoms and Timeous Treatment

CES is accompanied by various symptoms that may evolve slowly over time, the severity of which depend on the degree of compression. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe lower back pain;
  • “Saddle anaesthesia” which involves a numbness and loss of sensation in the buttocks, perineum and inner surfaces of the thigh;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Faecal incontinence as a result of dysfunction in the anal sphincter;
  • Urinary retention, where the bladder fills with urine but there is no normal sensation or urge to urinate; and
  • Altered sensation in legs, buttocks, back of legs and feet/heels such as pins and needles.

CES is a neurosurgical emergency.  Early diagnosis with MRI and subsequent surgical decompression can prevent irreversible damage.  Patients with CES are likely to have the best neurological outcomes from urgent and immediate medical treatment to relieve pressure off the cauda equina nerves.  Spinal surgeons usually should not ‘let the sun come up or go down’ before taking a patient in for urgent surgery once the diagnosis is confirmed.  Diagnosis is confirmed by a proper consideration of the symptoms and then by investigation.  Unreasonable delay from the point when the diagnosis ought to have been made and hence surgery undertaken is a deviation from the standard of care.

If you believe you have these symptoms and were misdiagnosed or not treated timeously causing injury and impairment, you may have a claim in medical negligence.

Get in touch with us

At Turner Freeman, we have specialist medical negligence lawyers who will assess your case and provide personalised advice regarding your legal entitlements.  Our expert medical negligence lawyers are placed to deal with matters throughout QLD, including meeting up at any one of our offices in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, North Lakes, Logan and Ipswich.  Contact us today on 13 43 63.