A rare disorder or condition which may be caused by medical malpractice, Cauda Equina Syndrome, occurs when the nerves at the lower back become compressed and paralyzed. These nerve endings located towards one's lower back, or the lower lumbar, act as an extension of the brain; sending and receiving messages from the brain which control the lower limbs and pelvic organs.
Some causes of cauda equine syndrome may involve a blood clot that forms in the spinal canal after spinal surgery, ruptured disk, tumor, or infection. Cauda equine syndrome may also be caused by a physical traumatic event to the lower back such as a car crash, a fall, gunshot, stabbing, or any other penetrating injury.
Early warning signs of cauda equine syndrome include:
- Incontinence of the bladder and/or bowels, one slowly starts to lose the ability to retain their waste.
- Progressive problems in the lower extremities, one may start to feel an altered sensation between their legs, feet, or buttocks.
- Weakness, numbness, or pain in the lower region. Typically forming in one leg and spreading to the other. May cause one to stumble or have difficulty getting in and out of cars or chairs.
- Sexual dysfunction
For a doctor to diagnose cauda equine syndrome, they will probably examine one’s medical history by reviewing their overall health, research when the symptoms started and how they impact daily activities. A doctor will also likely perform a physical examination which will allow them to assess the patient’s stability, sensations, strength, and reflexes. A physical examination may include a test like walking on one’s heels and toes, bending forward and backwards, and lying on the ground and lifting one’s legs. Further diagnostics may be required such as blood test and diagnostic imaging.
Cauda equina syndrome can be caused after spinal surgery by an epidural hematoma (a blood clot that occurs outside the fibrous covering of the spinal cord). Draining the epidural to relieve pressure on the nerves is a treatment that is to be performed after a successful diagnosis to prevent irreversible damage to the nerves. If the procedure is not performed soon enough, or if a doctor fails to diagnose cauda equine syndrome properly, then the damage to the nerves may become permanent.
Click here to watch Gregory Kauffman, M.D. explain more about cauda equina syndrome.
If you or someone you know suffered from cauda equine syndrome as the result of medical malpractice or the failure to diagnose, you may be entitled to compensation.
If you believe that you may have a medical malpractice case, call the Sweeney Law Firm to get your questions answered and learn your legal rights. There is no cost or obligation for us to evaluate your case.