Long-term Effects: Cauda Equina Syndrome

The group of nerve roots at the base of the spinal cord is referred to as the cauda equina. These nerves control our bowel, bladder, sexual function, and lower limbs. When they are compressed, it can cause major issues for those who are affected. The medical term for this is cauda equina syndrome (CES).

CES causes a number of symptoms known as "red flags". These include bowel and bladder disturbance (such as altered flow, sensation, or urgency), altered sensation in the lower body, pain in one or both legs, and reduced or lost of sexual sensation. 

In this blog, JMW Solicitors takes a look at the causes, symptoms and long-term effects of cauda equina syndrome. 

Causes of cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome has numerous potential causes, with the most common being a large central disc herniation (slipped disc) in the lower back that compresses the nerves. Other causes of compression can be a tumour or an infection. If the pressure is not relieved with surgery, then the nerves become damaged and the longer it is until surgery takes place, the worse the damage will be. 

CES can affect anyone of any age and is considered a medical emergency. Surgery should be carried out urgently following the onset of symptoms and a failure to recognise the signs or symptoms will cause the surgery to be delayed and irreversible nerve damage. This in turn will cause the CES to become worse and permanent. 

It is also possible for CES to be caused by mistakes that are made during surgery. 

What are the long-term effects of cauda equina syndrome?

If CES treatment is delayed, a patient will suffer irreversible neurological damage, resulting in long-term health issues. Although each person's specific experience will be unique, these issues typically involve one or more of the following:

  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sciatic pain
  • Saddle and groin altered sensation
  • Sensory abnormality in the lower body
  • Muscle weakness in the legs

These long-term effects can completely devastate the sufferer’s life. Many people will be forced to change their daily routines due to the physical effects making working and completing everyday tasks too challenging. CES patients can also experience serious psychological and emotional harm as a result of their physical problems, which cause them to lose confidence, see their relationships fall apart, and develop social anxiety.

What are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

There are several red flags that you might have cauda equina syndrome:

Numbness or different sensations in your legs, bum, hip and inner thighs

  • Bilateral sciatica
  • Altered sensation when having sex
  • Urinary and/or faecal incontinence
  • Not being able to pass urine or altered flow/sensation
  • Not getting the urge to go to pass urine Weakness in your legs 
  • Burning, prickling, tingling or numbness in your legs (paresthesia)

Urgently seek medical attention if you have these symptoms. You might be investigated for cauda equina syndrome and sent to Accident and Emergency,  neurosurgeon or orthopaedic  surgeon. Urgent surgery may help you by stopping additional damage to your nerves.

Contact us

If you have experienced delays or below-standard treatment for CES, and it was the result of negligence by a GP, hospital doctor, nurse, or physiotherapist, you may be entitled to medical negligence compensation.

JMW Solicitors has helped countless people get the compensation they deserve following cauda equina clinical negligence. If you or a loved one have been affected by cauda equina syndrome that was caused by negligence, our team of specialist solicitors is here to help. 

Contact us today on 0345 872 6666, or fill out our online contact form, and we will get in touch with you about making a cauda equina syndrome claim.