JMW in national media discussing avalanche of cauda equina syndrome cases

21st August 2019 Clinical Negligence

Like many others, cauda equina syndrome (CES) was not an injury I was aware of, or had even heard of before joining the clinical negligence department at JMW Solicitors as a trainee solicitor last year. This soon changed as I learned that JMW represents countless people whose lives have been devastated by a delay in diagnosing and treating the spinal injury.

As specialists in cauda equina claims JMW is a legal partner to the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association, a support service which helps affected patients with their mental and physical rehabilitation. This week we joined forces with CESA to raise awareness of CES in the media after Sally Leonards, a partner in our team, spoke to BBC online and the Radio 4 PM programme about the fact she sees the same mistakes being made time and again.

Frustratingly lessons do not seem to be learned and the BBC did a thorough investigation on the issue looking at the huge volume of cases against the NHS and the cost to both the injured patients and the health service in terms of compensation settlements.

CES most commonly occurs when the cauda equina nerves, which are at the bottom of the spinal cord, are hit or compressed by a slipped disc. When this occurs it is crucial that urgent decompression surgery is carried out.

Many of the cases we deal with at JMW concern the ‘red flag’ symptoms of CES being missed by medical professionals, meaning that surgery is delayed. A lack of resources no doubt contributes to the problem.

Raising awareness of these red flag symptoms is therefore crucial to preventing the life-changing symptoms which often accompany a delay in diagnosing and treating CES which can include bowel and bladder incontinence, mobility problems and loss of sexual function. All aspects of life are affected but continuing in employment can be particularly difficult as can maintaining personal relationships with partners often finding that they become the patient’s carer.

Although CES can occur at any age and to anyone, it is those with a past history of back problems that need to be particularly alert to the red flag symptoms which are frequently dismissed. These signs include severe back pain, a change in bladder and bowel habits, nerve pain down the legs, pins and needles and or numbness around the saddle, genital area and legs.

Understandably, we see all too often that these life changing symptoms result in subsequent psychological damage for many of our clients who may be unable to continue in employment, require substantial care and feel isolated from social circumstances due to their condition.

The clinical negligence department at JMW is experienced in handling cases involving delays in diagnosing and treating CES. If you would like to talk to one of the members of the team about your own experience, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

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Naomi O'Rourke is a Trainee Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Trainee Solicitors department

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