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Cauda Equina Syndrome and A&E Negligence

When a patient presents to A&E with the characteristic signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome, it is essential doctors recognise the symptoms and take immediate action. This is essential if a patient is going to make a full recovery; if there is a delay, the damage could be irreparable.

Diagnosing Cauda Equina Syndrome in A&E

Cauda Equina Syndrome is when the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord become compressed. This will cause the sudden onset of lower back and leg pain, along with bowel and bladder disturbances, sexual dysfunction and a loss of perineal sensation. The typical symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome are, therefore, of a serious nature. Understandably, this will prompt many people to seek immediate medical attention at their local Accident and Emergency department. Even if assistance is sought from a general practitioner first, it is likely a patient will be sent to A&E for further investigation.

It is then the responsibility of an Accident and Emergency doctor to consider whether there is any acute condition requiring immediate admission to hospital, particularly Cauda Equina Syndrome. In order to establish this, a doctor should take a note of a patient's recent history, remaining alert to anything that could have caused nerve compression for example, a traumatic accident. A thorough examination should subsequently be performed to assess whether a patient has:-

  • Loss of sensation;
  • Severe back pain;
  • Altered bowel or bladder function;
  • Altered perineal sensation;
  • Sphincter disturbance;
  • Poor knee and ankle reflexes;
  • Lower body muscle weakness.

If a patient is suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, doctors should become suspicious to the possibility of nerve compression. Imaging tests such as an MRI scan should be quickly carried out to confirm a diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome.

What would be considered a substandard level of care?

However, there are unfortunately times when A&E doctors fail to take these steps, causing Cauda Equina Syndrome to remain undiagnosed. This commonly happens if doctors fail to:-

  • Perform a complete examination;
  • Recognise the red flag symptoms, including poor anal tone and poor saddle area sensation;
  • Realise the findings of the examination indicate nerve compression;
  • Arrange further tests to confirm whether a putative diagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome is correct;
  • Advise a patient to return to A&E if symptoms deteriorate.

If an A&E doctor make any of these medical errors, then it is possible the care provided failed to achieve the expected standard.

What should you do next?

If you believe you or a loved one suffered because of a substandard level of medical care, you need to contact a medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible. This is because you could be entitled to claim compensation for the injuries you sustained as a result of A&E negligence.

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Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

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