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What is Cauda Equina Syndrome, and what are the symptoms?

View profile for Laura Sheehan
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How to prevent, relieve and treat symptoms of back pain

Today marks the first anniversary of Cauda Equina Awareness Day, a condition which most of us have probably never heard of yet for those who have had the condition, they are living with life changing injuries as a result of it.

Cauda Equina (CES) is the Latin for ‘horse’s tail’ and refers to the bundle nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord which you’ve guessed it, look like a horse’s tail! If the nerves become compressed, CES can occur. 

CES is a serious condition and one which requires urgent treatment in order to reduce the potentially debilitating impact of the condition.  CES requires surgery within hours to avoid permanent damage to the bowel, bladder, sexual organs and legs. The condition can be caused by many ‘triggers’.  It can be caused by trauma from accidents or playing sports or it can be caused by the most innocuous of body movements such as bending down to pick up a bag or walking up the stairs. 

CES Awareness Day was launched by the Cauda Equina Champions Charity on the 1st October 2020 by its founder Claire Thornber, a former CES patient and someone who is now living with the after effects of CES.  As well as trying to raise support for people living with disabilities arising from CES, the day is an opportunity for medical professionals to ensure they fully understand the red flag signs of the condition and know what steps they must take to ensure prompt treatment and the best outcome for patients. The Royal College of GPs says the condition is rare but every doctor should be on alert for it because of how serious it can be.

What are the red flag signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome? 

Many people suffer with lower back pain already but the signs of CES include:

•  Severe lower back pain
•  Weakness, loss of sensation or pain/pins and needles in the legs
•  Bladder issues (such as trouble passing urine, a reduced stream, retention of urine or incontinence)
•  Constipation and loss of bowel function
•  Numbness, loss of sensation, pain or pins and needles in the saddle area, groin and buttocks

Patients have the best chance of recovery if they receive surgery urgently at the onset of red flag symptoms starting. The longer they are left, the more permanent damage is caused and the poorer the outcome. The first 24 hours is crucial. 

We have acted for clients who have unfortunately suffered a delay in diagnosis and treatment of their CES leaving them with permanent and disabling injuries. Whilst we know compensation can’t change all of the difficulties a CES sufferer may face, it may help to improve their quality of life by covering the cost of current and future care, and changes to accommodation and equipment.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the negligence of a medical or health professional then we may be able to help you pursue a claim for compensation. Our leading team of experts are on hand to offer advice, so please get in touch with us on 0161 696 6165 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

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