Cauda Equina Syndrome and the important red flags doctors should not miss

4th June 2021

Cauda Equina Syndrome and the important red flags doctors should not miss

Mark Parsons, Professional Support Lawyer in the Personal Injury team, lifts the lid on Cauda Equina Syndrome – and what can be done if medics fail a loved one

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a little known and rare condition caused by a compression of nerves in the lower part of the spine.  If spotted early enough, this can be treated by surgery to release the compression. 

There are red flag symptoms which should warn any medical professional that their patient may require urgent surgery to decompress the nerves. Unfortunately, we have seen doctors fail to spot these symptoms with tragic consequences of permanent paralysis and incontinence. This failure can be grounds for medical negligence.

What are the Cauda Equina Syndrome red flags?

  • Saddle anaesthesia
  • Loss of feeling between the legs
  • Numbness in or around the back passage and / or genitals
  • Bladder disturbance
  • Inability or difficulty to start to urinate
  • Loss of sensation when urinating
  • Inability to stop or control urination
  • Loss of the full bladder sensation
  • Bowel disturbance
  • Inability to stop a bowel movement
  • Constipation
  • Loss of sensation when passing a bowel motion
  • Sexual problems
  • Inability to achieve an erection or ejaculate
  • Loss of sensation during intercourse

If a patient has more than one of these symptoms start at the same time, a medical professional should immediately recognise them as red flags of Cauda Equina Syndrome and perform an urgent examination and blood and urine tests.  If these results support a possible nerve compression, the patient should have an urgent MRI and if it shows a lesion, emergency surgery to decompress the nerve.

A competent medic should know the signs and then carry out the urgent tests to confirm their diagnosis, so if there has been a failure in someone’s care, this will be grounds for medical negligence. 

At Higgs & Sons we are experienced in helping patients who were let down by their doctors, so if you or a loved one has been affected by Cauda Equina Syndrome, please contact us to see how we can help you.


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