Cauda Equina National Awareness Day 1st October 2020

Moore Barlow are delighted to be supporting the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association (CESA) under their charity umbrella Cauda Equina Champions Charity (CECC) in the first ever National Awareness Day campaign on 1st October 2020.

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a little known but devastating condition that absolutely necessitates recognition on a national scale.

CES is a relatively rare condition resulting from damage to a group of nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord known as the cauda equina (Latin for ‘horse’s tail’, which is what the nerves resemble). The damage can occur in many ways but most commonly occurs when a spinal disc protrudes and compresses the cauda equina nerves. Other causes may be a spinal abscess, trauma, cancer or a haematoma. These nerves are responsible for bladder, bowel, sexual function and sensory function to the legs. Permanent damage to these nerves may therefore result in dysfunction of all of these together with neuropathic (nerve) pain and may, in some cases, confine a person to a wheelchair.

There are key signs and symptoms to look out for known as “red flag symptoms” which is what the CESA/CECC are keen to promote awareness of. These are typically:

  • Bladder symptoms
  • Bowel symptoms
  • Severe back pain
  • Leg weakness and numbness (bilateral)
  • Saddle numbness
  • Sexual problems

The key to a successful outcome is dependent on an early diagnosis being made followed by urgent surgery or other appropriate treatment. Diagnosis is a combination of clinical assessment and diagnostic imaging (usually an MRI scan). Failure to spot a ‘red flag symptom’ and put a person on the right treatment path promptly (usually within 24-48 hours) may result in the progression of this devastating condition.

Knowledge is key and that applies not only to all of us as individuals, but also to the healthcare professionals you may come into contact with, whether that is your GP, practice nurse, paramedic or the doctor who attends you in the Accident and Emergency or orthopaedic departments of a hospital.

Misdiagnosis of CES often results from problems with communication. As CES symptoms include incontinence and sexual dysfunction, people are often uncomfortable and embarrassed in disclosing this information and unless asked very specific questions may not even attribute or appreciate the importance of these symptoms to their diagnosis. The extremely time-sensitive nature of CES treatment means that the language used and the questions asked in any healthcare setting are crucial and must be specific and targeted. Ultimately, this means overcoming the embarrassment around raising and discussing intimate symptoms.

By raising awareness of the “red flag symptoms” and what these actually indicate, along with the importance of discussing associated intimate details, it is hoped that that the number of people suffering with this condition will be significantly reduced in the future.

As experienced clinical negligence solicitors, Moore Barlow applauds CESA/CECC on holding this most important first National Awareness Day for this condition.