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Cauda Equina Syndrome Compensation

Delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cauda equina syndrome can lead to serious health complications.

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I am very happy and satisfied with the settlement you achieved for me and the service was excellent and thank you very much

Mrs E.Swaffield
Loughborough

Making a claim for cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome occurs when the nerves at the base of the spine are trapped, causing excessive pressure. Symptoms tend to include pain or discomfort in the affected areas, most frequently the lower back, legs and bowels. Difficulty passing urine is another common side effect. Although the condition is fairly rare, if left untreated it can lead to serious complications such as permanent nerve damage, or even paralysis. This means that early diagnosis is vitally important, in order to avoid any delays in treatment. If you are suffering from any or all of the symptoms outlined above, you should contact your GP immediately or visit your nearest A&E department. A GP, doctor or hospital consultant should recognise a patient’s 'red flag’ symptoms, which should trigger emergency medical attention.

Providing the condition is diagnosed promptly, pressure on the nerves can be relieved without any lasting damage. Unfortunately, because cauda equina syndrome is relatively uncommon, it can sometimes go totally undiagnosed. This is especially true in circumstances where a patient suffers medical negligence. While this is inexcusable, the good news is that it does mean a claim is more likely to be successful. This is because a complete failure to diagnose a condition is considerably easier to prove than a simple delayed diagnosis. Research has shown that nearly half of all cauda equina claims result in compensation for the victim.

 

Damage to the spinal cord itself is almost always irreversible. Recovery depends on the accuracy of the diagnosis and the subsequent promptness of treatment and care by doctors, specialists and other practitioners on a medical team.

Life-changing consequences

If diagnosis, testing and treatment are not received within 8 hours, the outcome for a patient can be life-changing.

Long term consequences include:

  • Difficulty in walking
  • Impaired bladder and/or bowel control
  • Nerve/neurological problems
  • Permanent paralysis

A permanent spinal injury can have a devastating, traumatic impact upon the whole family, especially if the damage was avoidable and if sufficient care was not taken.

Permanent damage and spinal injuries caused by complications arising from symptoms missed, misdiagnosed or mistreated can all be grounds for clinical negligence claims relating to cauda equina syndrome.

As these cases are often complicated, it is vitally important that you seek a legal expert who has a specialist knowledge of the key medical issues, together with a sympathetic and sensitive understanding of how everyone involved is affected.

Your Legal Friend has many years of experience in successfully resolving different types of clinical negligence cases.

If you have developed cauda equina syndrome due to receiving negligent medical care, you may have a claim. With a wealth of specialist knowledge in medical negligence cases, we can provide advice support and guidance throughout the process. There are no upfront fees or payments, so talk to Your Legal Friend today for more information.

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Our expert team will call you...

Our medical negligence team has years of experience working on a wide variety of cauda equina syndrome cases so we understand just how difficult a decision it can be to begin a claim for compensation.

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That’s why we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts, to guarantee the best results for you.

Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan who has a wealth of experience in leading cauda equina cases due to hospital negligence.

Laura is recognised within the legal profession as a leader in the field of medical negligence and serious injury compensation.  Laura has acted in a wide range of cases over her 17 years of practice and has particular expertise in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth, patients who have experienced surgical errors, and in managing claims that have resulted in the death of a loved one. Laura has achieved a number of large settlements including £5.4 million for a 7 year old and £4 million for an 11 year old child.

Laura’s expertise and dedication to her clients is recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession in which she was praised for the efficiency of her approach to case handling and described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.

Laura has been a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel since 2005 and accredited as a Senior Litigator in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since 2006.  Laura is also a member of the specialist lawyers panel for Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK’s leading charity committed to patient safety and justice.

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors, call us now on 0808 115 9269 (calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

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The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.

Laura Morgan

Director of Medical Negligence

What our customers say

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“I found the staff to be friendly, helpful, courteous and they kept me well informed on a regular basis”

Mrs. Vora,
Loughborough

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“They acted in a sympathetic and professional manner and resolved my case very efficiently”

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Leeds

  For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today 0151 550 5228

10 simple steps to claim

Step
1
Obtaining your medical records
Step
2
Providing your statement of what happened
Step
3
Minimising your loss
Step
4
Establishing that a breach of duty occurred
Step
5
Estabilishing the effect of the breach of duty
Step
86
Preparing your case for CourtCalculating the value of your claim
Step
7
Proving your loss
Step
68
Calculating the value of your claimPreparing your case for Court
Step
9
Attending the trial in Court
Step
10
Awarding your compensation claim

Your questions... answered

What exactly is cauda equina syndrome?

Where the spinal cord ends between the first and second lumbar vertebrae of the lower back, the spinal nerves branch out individually in a formation resembling a "horse’s tail", otherwise known by the Latin term, cauda equina.

Nerves in the cauda equina help to control and manage many lower parts of the body including, the bowel, bladder, legs and sexual function. Injury resulting in paralysis to these nerve roots is referred to as cauda equina syndrome.

What causes cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by pressure on the spinal nerves due to one of the following:

  • A herniated (“slipped”) disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis - narrowing of spaces in the spine
  • Spinal tumours or neoplasms (tissue growths)
  • Inflammatory conditions of the spine
  • Infections in the spinal canal, such as a spinal epidural abscess
  • An injury that penetrates the lower back
  • Trauma to the lumbar spine, such as a car accident or a fall
  • Medical treatment, such as surgical errors. 

What are the common symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

This depends on which nerves are affected and the degree of nerve compression and subsequent irritation.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Loss of feeling / progressive weakness or numbness in the legs and/or feet, including difficulty walking
  • Sharp stabbing pain in one or both legs radiating down from the buttocks
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence and/or loss of rectal control
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Onset of symptoms - can occur suddenly or develop over weeks or years:

  • Sudden onset - bladder and/or bowel incontinence or dysfunction and/or progressive weakness in the legs and/or feet.
  • Gradual onset - include recurring back pain together with muscle weakness and numbness and bladder and/or bowel incontinence or dysfunction.

 

Two different classifications – the syndrome can be classified as

  • Incomplete CES (CESI) and
  • Complete CES (or CES with true retention - CESR).

Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome - CESI

Patients are diagnosed with motor and sensory changes, including loss of feeling but have yet to develop full retention or incontinence of either bowel or bladder.

Complete Cauda Equina With True Retention - CESR

Patients experience painless urinary and bowel retention and, eventually, overflow  incontinence. 

‘Red Flag’ symptoms

These are crucial signs that a GP, hospital doctor or medical team member should recognise and immediately act upon without delay to confirm diagnosis and provide urgent medical treatment. 

‘Red flags’ that point to cauda equina syndrome include:

  • Complete numbness/loss of feeling in buttocks, perineum and inner surfaces of the thighs, known as the ‘saddle area’
  • Paraesthesia - an unusual or unexplained tingling, pricking, or burning sensation in the ‘saddle area’
  • Recent onset of bladder dysfunction
  • Recent onset of faecal incontinence or unexpected relaxation of the anal sphincter
  • Severe or progressive nerve function in the lower limbs. 
Read less

How is cauda equina syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosing cauda equina syndrome (CES) can be a challenge - not only is the condition rare but the symptoms are also closely linked to other similar conditions. However it is vital that cauda equina syndrome is diagnosed in the early stages, while the condition is still incomplete.

A common complaint is lower back pain with leg pain and/or weakness.  Early diagnosis and treatment are essential toincrease the chances of a successful recovery and prevent the risk of permanent nerve damage, bladder and/or bowel dysfunction.

To confirm a diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome, the following actions should take place:

  • Examination of patient’s full medical history - to determine any previous damage to the spine that could cause further complications.
  • Physical examination - to include:
  • Testing the muscle strength of the lower limbs
  • Evaluating sensation to touch and pain
  • Checking lower limb reflexes
  • Assessment  of anal tone, reflex and sensation
  • MRI/CT scan - to provide a detailed look at tumours, infection, intervertebral discs, and nerve roots.
  • X-ray scan - to look for severe arthritis and trauma.
  • Myelogram – a coloured dye is injected into the spinal canal to show any pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Read less

What is the treatment for cauda equina syndrome?

Within 8 hours of onset of symptoms – this is the recommended time limit for emergency surgical decompression to reduce or eliminate pressure on the nerve.


Within 24 to 48 hours - surgery should be performed to provide the maximum potential for improving sensory and motor response as well as bladder and bowel functioning.


If more than 48 hours is allowed to elapse - after compression of the cauda equina nerve, the damage to the nerves will be extensive. A patient could be left with long-term complications, such as paralysis, loss of bladder control and/or loss of bowel function.

When do I have a cauda equine syndrome clinical negligence case?

When there has been a failure to recognise symptoms
Cauda equina syndrome (CES) can develop very quickly and there is only a short period of time in which the condition can be effectively treated. Because CES is relatively rare and often follows more typical back pain, ‘red flag’ symptoms may not be recognised.


When there has been a missed or delayed diagnosis
When care in the diagnosis and treatment of a spinal injury falls below an acceptable standard, the injuries can affect motor, brain and nerve function.


If the signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are present when attending hospital, a failure to act upon these symptoms within 48 hours, such as arranging for a MRI / CT scan, can be grounds for negligence.


When there has been failed or negligent surgery/post operative complications
The duty of care you are owed as a patient means that every doctor, specialist, nurse or clinician must “exercise the skill appropriate to their experience and training and perform their clinical responsibilities in line with their peers.”

How can Your Legal Friend help with your cauda equina syndrome claim?

No amount of compensation for clinical negligence can reverse the suffering and stress caused when an injury or condition is not properly diagnosed or treated.


No one can truly measure the emotional devastation caused to a patient and their family trying to come to terms with what has happened to a loved one.


As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that families need to find answers and hold the people responsible to account. We can help you find out why the system has failed you at a time of greatest need.

 

You may feel there is an emotional hurdle to overcome before taking the decision to seek legal advice. However, from the first time we discuss your case, our experienced medical negligence solicitors will treat you with the highest degree of sympathetic and sensitive understanding and provide you with the expert guidance you need.


We are committed to ensuring we properly investigate what went wrong and why. If we can prove your case, we will obtain the maximum compensation for you including loss of earnings, rehabilitation costs, therapy, support, care and specialist equipment, so that your current and future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.

Read less

Where the spinal cord ends between the first and second lumbar vertebrae of the lower back, the spinal nerves branch out individually in a formation resembling a "horse’s tail", otherwise known by the Latin term, cauda equina.

Nerves in the cauda equina help to control and manage many lower parts of the body including, the bowel, bladder, legs and sexual function. Injury resulting in paralysis to these nerve roots is referred to as cauda equina syndrome.

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by pressure on the spinal nerves due to one of the following:

  • A herniated (“slipped”) disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis - narrowing of spaces in the spine
  • Spinal tumours or neoplasms (tissue growths)
  • Inflammatory conditions of the spine
  • Infections in the spinal canal, such as a spinal epidural abscess
  • An injury that penetrates the lower back
  • Trauma to the lumbar spine, such as a car accident or a fall
  • Medical treatment, such as surgical errors. 

This depends on which nerves are affected and the degree of nerve compression and subsequent irritation.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Loss of feeling / progressive weakness or numbness in the legs and/or feet, including difficulty walking
  • Sharp stabbing pain in one or both legs radiating down from the buttocks
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence and/or loss of rectal control
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Onset of symptoms - can occur suddenly or develop over weeks or years:

  • Sudden onset - bladder and/or bowel incontinence or dysfunction and/or progressive weakness in the legs and/or feet.
  • Gradual onset - include recurring back pain together with muscle weakness and numbness and bladder and/or bowel incontinence or dysfunction.

 

Two different classifications – the syndrome can be classified as

  • Incomplete CES (CESI) and
  • Complete CES (or CES with true retention - CESR).

Incomplete Cauda Equina Syndrome - CESI

Patients are diagnosed with motor and sensory changes, including loss of feeling but have yet to develop full retention or incontinence of either bowel or bladder.

Complete Cauda Equina With True Retention - CESR

Patients experience painless urinary and bowel retention and, eventually, overflow  incontinence. 

‘Red Flag’ symptoms

These are crucial signs that a GP, hospital doctor or medical team member should recognise and immediately act upon without delay to confirm diagnosis and provide urgent medical treatment. 

‘Red flags’ that point to cauda equina syndrome include:

  • Complete numbness/loss of feeling in buttocks, perineum and inner surfaces of the thighs, known as the ‘saddle area’
  • Paraesthesia - an unusual or unexplained tingling, pricking, or burning sensation in the ‘saddle area’
  • Recent onset of bladder dysfunction
  • Recent onset of faecal incontinence or unexpected relaxation of the anal sphincter
  • Severe or progressive nerve function in the lower limbs. 
Read less

Diagnosing cauda equina syndrome (CES) can be a challenge - not only is the condition rare but the symptoms are also closely linked to other similar conditions. However it is vital that cauda equina syndrome is diagnosed in the early stages, while the condition is still incomplete.

A common complaint is lower back pain with leg pain and/or weakness.  Early diagnosis and treatment are essential toincrease the chances of a successful recovery and prevent the risk of permanent nerve damage, bladder and/or bowel dysfunction.

To confirm a diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome, the following actions should take place:

  • Examination of patient’s full medical history - to determine any previous damage to the spine that could cause further complications.
  • Physical examination - to include:
  • Testing the muscle strength of the lower limbs
  • Evaluating sensation to touch and pain
  • Checking lower limb reflexes
  • Assessment  of anal tone, reflex and sensation
  • MRI/CT scan - to provide a detailed look at tumours, infection, intervertebral discs, and nerve roots.
  • X-ray scan - to look for severe arthritis and trauma.
  • Myelogram – a coloured dye is injected into the spinal canal to show any pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Read less

Within 8 hours of onset of symptoms – this is the recommended time limit for emergency surgical decompression to reduce or eliminate pressure on the nerve.


Within 24 to 48 hours - surgery should be performed to provide the maximum potential for improving sensory and motor response as well as bladder and bowel functioning.


If more than 48 hours is allowed to elapse - after compression of the cauda equina nerve, the damage to the nerves will be extensive. A patient could be left with long-term complications, such as paralysis, loss of bladder control and/or loss of bowel function.

When there has been a failure to recognise symptoms
Cauda equina syndrome (CES) can develop very quickly and there is only a short period of time in which the condition can be effectively treated. Because CES is relatively rare and often follows more typical back pain, ‘red flag’ symptoms may not be recognised.


When there has been a missed or delayed diagnosis
When care in the diagnosis and treatment of a spinal injury falls below an acceptable standard, the injuries can affect motor, brain and nerve function.


If the signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are present when attending hospital, a failure to act upon these symptoms within 48 hours, such as arranging for a MRI / CT scan, can be grounds for negligence.


When there has been failed or negligent surgery/post operative complications
The duty of care you are owed as a patient means that every doctor, specialist, nurse or clinician must “exercise the skill appropriate to their experience and training and perform their clinical responsibilities in line with their peers.”

No amount of compensation for clinical negligence can reverse the suffering and stress caused when an injury or condition is not properly diagnosed or treated.


No one can truly measure the emotional devastation caused to a patient and their family trying to come to terms with what has happened to a loved one.


As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that families need to find answers and hold the people responsible to account. We can help you find out why the system has failed you at a time of greatest need.

 

You may feel there is an emotional hurdle to overcome before taking the decision to seek legal advice. However, from the first time we discuss your case, our experienced medical negligence solicitors will treat you with the highest degree of sympathetic and sensitive understanding and provide you with the expert guidance you need.


We are committed to ensuring we properly investigate what went wrong and why. If we can prove your case, we will obtain the maximum compensation for you including loss of earnings, rehabilitation costs, therapy, support, care and specialist equipment, so that your current and future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.

Read less