What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Cauda Equina Syndrome (“CES“) arises through damage or compression to the cauda equina, a bundle of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord. The compression of the nerves can impair function in various parts of your lower body and can even result in permanent paralysis. The onset of CES symptoms necessitates urgent medical attention for proper diagnosis and immediate treatment.
When CES is correctly diagnosed, it can be treated effectively; however, failure to diagnose CES is a serious medical mistake that can cause physical, emotional, and financial suffering for the rest of the victim’s life. Because this condition can cause severe disability, the families of the victims are affected as well.
Though emergency rooms can be chaotic and emergency room doctors, nurses, and other staff members are often busy, substandard care is simply not acceptable. CES must be considered as a possible cause anytime a patient presents to the emergency department with neurological symptoms consistent with possible spinal cord compression. If an MRI demonstrates spinal cord compression, surgery is almost always indicated on an urgent basis in order to prevent or limit spinal cord damage, including bowel and bladder function. If the diagnosis is missed by emergency room staff, necessary surgery may be tragically delayed, resulting in permanent paralysis from the waist down.
Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome
Patients suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Loss or impairment of bowel or bladder function or control
- Numbness or weakness in pelvic area, genitals, buttocks, legs or feet
- Severe pain in back, buttocks, pelvic area, buttocks, legs or feet
If someone you know complains of these symptoms, you must get him/her to an emergency room immediately. You must inquire as to whether CES may be a possible diagnosis if your doctor never mentions it. If your doctor does not order the necessary tests to detect CES, then you may have a medical malpractice case.
It is crucial that medical staff ask four vital questions of any patient complaining of low back pain:
- Has your bladder been working normally? (Can you tell when it’s full? Do you feel you have to go all the time? Have you had any loss of control or difficulty urinating?)
- Have you had numbness or any strange sensation in your buttocks or groin area?
- Have you noticed any loss of feeling in your genitals? Are you unable to get an erection or ejaculate?
- Have you experienced any problems with your bowels lately?
What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?
CES is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal, and there are many ways this can occur including:
- Disc herniation
- Spinal stenosis
- Trauma such as fracture of the lumbar spine (lower back)
- Gunshot or stab wound
- Complication of spinal manipulation (rare cause)
- Inflammatory conditions
- Infectious conditions
Because CES can be diagnosed and treated effectively if caught early enough, medical malpractice cases are often filed against the physicians who failed to detect and treat CES in a timely manner. CES is a medical emergency because if someone is already complaining about symptoms, the process leading to nerve injury is already beginning to take place and must be stopped as quickly as reasonably possible.
What to Do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice or Negligence
If you have suffered due to medical negligence or because an emergency room physician did not diagnose a serious medical problem before irreparable damage occurred, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers Weiss & Paarz P.C. focus on medical malpractice cases. Misdiagnosis of serious conditions such as Cauda Equina Syndrome, heart attack, meningitis, and cancer are some of the most devastating cases we see each year.
New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys Michael Weiss and Robert Paarz have dedicated their careers to helping families who have suffered unspeakable tragedies – pain that no one can understand unless it has been experienced firsthand. Our goal is to provide the highest quality legal representation to victims of medical malpractice.
If you live in New Jersey or a surrounding area and feel you may have a valid medical malpractice claim due to failure to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Weiss & Paarz P.C. today to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation.