JMW supporting Cauda Equina Syndrome Awareness Day

1st October 2020 Clinical Negligence

Today marks the inaugural Cauda Equina Syndrome Awareness Day which has been organised by the Cauda Equina Champions Charity.

The medical negligence team at JMW is supporting this event having seen countless times the catastrophic consequences poor knowledge of this spinal condition can have.

We are representing scores of patients with cauda equina syndrome (CES) whose stories are tragically similar. Frequently they have been left unable to work, with poor mobility, unable to control their bowel and bladder and in chronic pain. Their quality of life is very poor and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the financial and personal responsibilities they have.

JMW has been representing people with CES for many years. Most, if not all, had never heard of CES before it happened to them. But depressingly, even if they had, their outcome would probably not have been different because the medical professionals they were seen by were not aware of the red flags or what action needed to be taken.

This is why awareness is so crucial. The lives of entire families are being turned upside down due to both a lack of recognition and urgency by a wide cross section of the medical profession. This includes hospital doctors in A&E departments, GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists and even specialist spinal surgeons. These healthcare workers have a duty to identify the signs of CES when a patient presents to them and make the correct referrals to ensure a prompt diagnosis and surgery. This may involve asking the right questions of a patient who is not aware of the significance of the symptoms they have developed, carrying out a thorough neurological examination or being able to recognise the signs on a scan. In the many cases we deal with this has not happened.

What is cauda equina syndrome and what are the red flags?

Cauda equina is the Latin for ‘horse’s tail’ and refers to the bundle nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord which look like a horse’s tail.

If the nerves become compressed, due to pressure from a slipped disc, a tumour, trauma from an accident, stenosis or a cyst, it causes symptoms which are known as ‘red flags’ that cauda equina syndrome is happening, including:

  • Leg pain/weakness or altered sensation such as pins and needles or electric shock sensation
  • Altered bladder function, including not feeling the urge to go, altered sensation when passing urine, or incontinence.
  • Bowel incontinence or reduced sensation
  • Change in sensation in the groin or saddle area e.g. numbness when wiping or pins and needles
  • Altered sexual function

Patients have the best chance of recovery if they receive surgery within 24 hours of the onset of red flags. The longer they are left, the more permanent damage is caused and the poorer the outcome.

CES Awareness Day is an opportunity for medical professionals to ensure they fully understand the red flags and know what steps they must take to ensure prompt treatment.

What is JMW’s role?

As specialists in cauda equina syndrome, our team helps patients challenge the healthcare failures they have experienced. We can’t turn back the clock but we can help patients to find answers and if they need compensation to cope with permanent disabilities we help them to secure this.

We have worked with and supported the Cauda Equina Champions Charity since its inception and we recommend our clients contact them for additional support or to join the fight for awareness.

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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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