What are cauda equina red flags?
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a rare and severe type of spinal stenosis where all the nerves in the lower back suddenly become severely compressed. These nerves located at the base of the spinal cord are responsible for regulating the bladder, bowels, sexual function, and lower limbs. When these nerves are compressed, it can lead to a condition called cauda equina syndrome (CES), which can result in serious health issues for sufferers. There are several symptoms that occur when these nerves are compressed, referred to as ‘red flags’.
Cauda equina red flag signs include bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, pain and/or altered sensation in the legs, loss of sexual sensation, and saddle numbness.
It is vital to seek advice immediately from a medical professional if you notice any of these warning signs. Delayed diagnosis or late diagnosis can lead to permanent damage to your body.
- Inability to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Loss of sensation when passing urine
- Inability to control urination
- Loss of full sensation of the bladder
- Inability to control bowel movements
- Loss of feeling or sensation during bowel movements
If you typically have control over when you need to go to the toilet but suddenly experience loss of control, it could be a symptom of CES.
Pain and weakness:
- Bilateral sciatica (pain and altered sensation in the legs)
- Weakness or numbness in both legs
- Tingling or pins and needles in both legs.
Sciatica is pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg. It is usually caused by a disc putting pressure on the nerves around it. Bilateral (on both sides) sciatica and altered sensation in the legs and buttocks could indicate CES, requiring urgent medical attention.
- Inability to achieve an erection or ejaculate
- Loss of sensation during sexual intercourse
- Loss of clitoral sensation.
Saddle anaesthesia or numbness:
- Loss of sensation to the buttocks, perineum and inner surfaces of the thighs
- Numbness or loss of feeling between the legs
- Numbness in or around the back passage and/or genitals
- Lack of sensation when wiping with toilet paper
- Tingling or weakness in the saddle area.
If you experience numbness or weakness in your legs, genitals, or anus, it could be a sign of CES. Any nerve damage can lead to a narrowing and compression of the cauda equina nerves, resulting in permanent health problems. Delay in seeking medical attention can lead to severe consequences.
What should I do if I think I have cauda equina syndrome?
CES has several potential causes, with the most common being a large central disc herniation (slipped disc) in the lower back.
It is a medical emergency that can affect individuals of all ages. Relieving the condition requires surgery within 24 to 48 hours, and if there is a delayed diagnosis or late diagnosis by healthcare professionals, the condition can become permanent. If you suspect that you have CES, you should seek immediate medical attention.
What medical care is required for signs of cauda equina syndrome?
If a person is showing signs of CES it is crucial to perform a thorough assessment of their symptoms, and an MRI scan to diagnose the condition. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, emergency surgery is required.
A patient can suffer life-changing injuries if there are any delays in the assessment, scan, and treatment.
These injuries may include:
- Permanent paralysis
- Bladder and bowel incontinence
- Mobility issues
- Sexual dysfunction
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue.
If you have suffered from a delayed diagnosis or inadequate treatment for CES by a GP, hospital doctor, nurse, or physiotherapist, you may be entitled to medical negligence compensation.
Thompsons Solicitors has helped hundreds of people with cauda equina claims get the compensation they deserve. If you or a family member has been affected by cauda equina syndrome due to medical error, our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors are here to help.
If you are looking to make a cauda equina syndrome claim, contact our medical negligence solicitors today on 0800 0 224 224 or complete our online claim form. Our initial assessment and legal advice are free of charge, so get in touch to see how we can help you with your case.