Clinical negligence in diagnosis and treatment of Cauda Equina syndrome

  • Cauda Equina is a medical emergency which requires the condition to be diagnosed and treated generally within 48 hours to relieve the pressure on the nerves.
  • Delays in diagnosing or treating Cauda Equina can lead to permanent or irreversible damage.
  • As the effects on individuals are usually quite extensive, Cauda Equina settlements are often substantial.
  • Seeking specialist advice early can significantly influence the outcome of your compensation claim.

Moore Barlow Cauda Equina Solicitors have been appointed to the legal advice panel established by the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association (CESA) to help support their important work for people who have cauda equina syndrome.

We have a wealth of experience of spinal injury claims at Moore Barlow and in particular cauda equina syndrome. We have dual qualified (medical) lawyers and lawyers with experience of investigating clinical negligence claims to obtain compensation.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a rare condition that affects a group of nerve roots located at the bottom of the spinal cord. These nerves become compressed and usually surgery is required to relieve that compression. The pressure on the nerves can occur as a result of a slipped disc, tumour on the spine or an abscess. Failure to diagnose, and therefore treat CES, can result in harmful and often long-term health problems.

CES typically occurs more often in adults than children. Individuals with CES will suffer from compression of these spinal nerve roots, which tend to be categorised by a number of symptoms that are referred to as “red flag” symptoms. These “red flag” symptoms can include:

  • Numbness, pain or weakness in the legs that causes mobility problems.
  • Severe lower back pain.
  • Bladder or bowel problems, including both retention and incontinence.
  • An altered sensation in the buttocks, legs, inner thighs, backs of the legs or feet which is severe or becomes increasingly worse.

It is imperative that Cauda Equina Syndrome is quickly diagnosed after the symptoms occur. A doctor will typically make the diagnosis based on several factors, including:

  • Your medical history in regards to your health, symptoms and activity.
  • A physical examination, with the possibility of blood tests.
  • CT radiology scan.
  • A 3D image of your spine through an MRI radiology scan.
  • An X-ray of the spinal canal to identify pressure points on the nerves or spinal canal.

Cauda Equina is a medical emergency which requires the condition to be diagnosed and treated generally within 48 hours to relieve the pressure on the nerves. Surgery must be performed quickly to prevent permanent damage to the nerves which can result in loss of bowel and bladder control, paralysis of the legs, loss of sexual functions and neuropathic pain.

Despite being given treatment, not all patients recover full function as this depends on the amount of damage and the speed in which surgery was performed.

Delayed or missed diagnosis and delay in treatment are the key reasons for Cauda Equina clinical negligence claims because lost time can lead to permanent and irreversible damage.

Our experienced clinical negligence team have years of experience in dealing with Cauda Equina compensation claims. There are many reasons why a claim for clinical negligence may arise to include:

  • Misdiagnosis. Frequently clinicians fail to properly take a detailed medical history or perform a thorough physical examination and miss key “red-flag” symptoms.
  • Delayed investigations. Patients require urgent investigation to confirm the diagnosis but there are, in some circumstances, still delays of days or weeks in undertaking essential investigations.
  • Inadequate or poorly performed surgery resulting in cord compression.
  • A failure to recognise post-operative complications following surgery.

If you have been diagnosed with CES and are unhappy with the medical treatment you received, you may want to discuss with us what your options are. If we believe that you have a claim for compensation we will advise you.

Specialist advice could significantly influence the outcome of your claim. Clinical negligence claims are complex – you’ll need the support of specialist clinical negligence solicitors who have what it takes to deliver results in this highly technical and complex area of law.

We are one of the top clinical negligence teams in the country. With many years’ experience of claims against hospitals, GP’s and other healthcare providers, we have a consistently strong track record and are regarded as leaders in the field.

Cauda Equina settlements are often substantial as the effects on individuals are usually quite extensive. As well as damage to bladder, bowel and sexual function, there can be restrictions on mobility and ongoing pain, often leading to an inability to work and the need for extensive help with everyday living. The level of your disability and symptoms will generally dictate the level of settlement.

It is vital in any case that you maximise your recovery through active rehabilitation. Where a compensation claim does exist and errors in treatment have arisen our aim is to help rebuild your life by obtaining interim payments of compensation, wherever possible at any early stage, to assist you with your recovery to include needs relating to:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Re-education/training
  • Transport
  • Housing
  • Aids and equipment
  • Care support
  • Therapeutic services
  • Case management

We can advise you on your benefit rights and also advise on dealing with debts which might arise due to being off work.

Our expert team are based across our offices in Southampton, London, Woking, Richmond, Lymington and Guildford, and we operate nationally. Contact us for specialist support today.


View our Cauda Equina factsheet

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