Case Study: Delay in Treating Cauda Equina Syndrome

Compensation: £250,000

Joanne, Derbyshire  

JMW has secured a £250,000 settlement for a woman who was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome following a delay in treatment.

For several months 24-year-old Joanne had been experiencing intermittent back pain. She consulted her GP who examined her and found nothing of note. He reassured her that back pain is very common and prescribed pain killers.

Paramedics fail to take Joanne to hospital

For the next eight months the pain continued intermittently and then suddenly one morning became much worse accompanied by numbness in both legs and pins and needles in the feet. Joanne realised something was seriously wrong and called 999 for an ambulance, which arrived quickly.

Joanne was examined by one of the paramedics who, despite recording that she had numbness in both legs, said that she was suffering from sciatica and advised her that she did not need to attend hospital.

Increased numbness

Joanne rested at home for the next few hours during which time the numbness extended to the perineal area (saddle anaesthesia) and she had no sensation when she passed urine. The GP was contacted and when told of Joanne symptoms advised that she should immediately go to A&E. There was some delay in being seen by a doctor despite Joanne having all the ‘red flag’ signs of CES and a definite diagnosis was not made until three hours later.

An MRI scan confirmed that a huge disc prolapse was severely compressing the nerves of the cauda equina. There was then a further delay of a couple of hours before it was decided that Joanne required immediate emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves.

Unfortunately all the theatres were being used for other emergency cases and the surgery did not take place until 10.30 the next morning – 24 hours after her symptoms first began.

Permanent damage

If Joanne had been transported to the hospital by the ambulance during the morning it is likely that she would have undergone surgery that same afternoon or evening before the damage to the spinal nerves became irreversible.

The delay in treating Joanne has had a devastating effect on her life. She is disabled by constant back pain, made worse by sitting and walking, has poor bladder and bowel control and no genital sensation. In such a young woman this is particularly distressing and not surprisingly Joanne has become very depressed.


The ambulance service admitted that they were negligent in not transporting Joanne to hospital and the case was settled by one of JMW’s expert lawyers for £250,000.

Have you or a loved one also suffered from a delay in treatment of cauda equina syndrome?

Find out more about pursuing a claim of this type by calling us for free on 0800 054 6512 or by filling in the enquiry form here.

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