Understanding Cauda Equina Syndrome

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Understanding Cauda Equina Syndrome

There are several different parts to the spine, each with its own name. Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) relates specifically to a particular one of them.

The human vertebral column comprises 33 different vertebrae, five of which are known as lumbar articulating vertebrae- which actually come in pairs. The second to fifth lumbar nerve pairs and a coccygeal nerve are what effectively makes up the cauda equina, and this bundle of nerve fibres sits at the bottom of the spinal cord.

In our everyday functioning, the cauda equina nerves control a significant amount of what we do, such as the motor functions of our hips, knees, ankles and feet.  They also control the internal and external anal sphincter and part of the functioning of the bladder.

The medical definition of CES is a neurological condition which causes the loss of functioning in these spinal nerves, and the nerve roots which fall below the conus medullaris, which essentially is the area of the spinal column before the cauda equina. 

What are the symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Specific care is required for the symptoms of CES as they can be quite distressing. These can include severe back pain, numbness in the ‘saddle’ area of the genitals or buttocks, bladder or bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction, difficulty walking, motor weakness and ultimately paralysis.

CES generally occurs when the cauda equina nerves are pinched or irritated, while this can be aggravated by a herniated disc, a tumour or spinal stenosis. It can effectively be caused by any condition in your lower spine that compresses the nerves in the lumbar spinal canal. 

You may feel the symptoms of CES straight away, or they may occur gradually over time. This all depends on the degree of irritation, but of course, if a mild complaint is not diagnosed properly and you are not given the correct advice, this can lead to irreversible problems in later life.

While CES is a rare condition, it is still a very serious one. It is felt that decompression surgery on the spine within 24 hours is required to prevent the full symptoms. If left untreated, the very serious and distressing symptoms listed above can take control.

How could Ison Harrison help?

At Ison Harrison, our Clinical Negligence Department contains highly specialised solicitors trained to deal with all strands of this complex area of the law. If you feel you have been mistreated or wrongly diagnosed with regards to CES, it is important that you seek specialist help.

We can help you get the medical attention you require and we can also study your case and seek expert advice on your behalf, to establish if negligence has taken place. Please call 0113 284 5000 to speak to a member of our friendly team.

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