Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a rare neurologic condition, but trained medical providers are required to understand the signs and symptoms associated with this medical emergency so that a timely diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately, when medical professionals fail to diagnose CES, or fail to make a timely diagnosis, a patient can suffer permanent, catastrophic injuries. When medical professionals fail to appropriately diagnose CES, they may be liable for medical malpractice.
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
CES is caused by compression of the nerve roots of the cauda equina, which is a collection of nerves at the end of the spinal cord. The nerves that make up the cauda equina serve important functions, such as controlling motor strength and sensation of the lower limbs, and controlling bowel and bladder function. CES can present differently in each patient, but certain symptoms should prompt a medical professional to quickly consider and test for CES, such as:
- “Saddle” numbness (i.e., numbness in the legs, buttocks, and genitals)
- Weakness or paralysis of the legs
- Back pain
- Urinary retention
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
What causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?
CES is caused by a number of different conditions, diseases, and treatments, including trauma or injury to the back, tumors, infections, inflammation, spinal stenosis, spinal bleeding, arteriovenous malformations, congenital defects, and surgical complications. More commonly, when a patient develops CES, it is associated with a herniated disk in the lumbar spine.
How is Cauda Equina Syndrome diagnosed?
Typically, the process of diagnosing CES begins with a qualified medical professional obtaining an appropriate history and performing a thorough physical examination. A history and physical can detect certain symptoms, such as those listed above, that are consistent with CES. Usually, these symptoms present acutely, but in some cases, CES can occur gradually. If a patient’s presentation suggests that a patient may have CES, a medical professional is required by the standard of care to consider CES as a possible cause. Failing to do so could constitute medical malpractice and can result in permanent injuries.
If a medical professional appropriately considers CES as a cause of the patient’s symptoms, the standard of care requires that the medical professional order certain diagnostic imaging of the spine – usually an MRI, which provides images of the spinal cord and what may be compressing the cauda equina. An imaging study is important when CES is suspected because it can confirm or rule out CES, and also because it can identify information that is important for surgical treatment. If CES is confirmed by diagnostic imaging, surgery is usually required to relieve the pressure on the cauda equina and to mitigate, and hopefully, avoid permanent injury.
How can I prove my doctor failed to appropriately diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Medical malpractice claims involve complex issues of medicine and law. To prove that a medical provider failed to appropriately and timely diagnose you or a loved one with cauda equina syndrome, you should hire attorneys who understand these complex issues of medicine and law. Our attorneys have experience in CES and understand how to prove a failure to make that diagnosis in a timely and appropriate fashion.
Like any medical malpractice claim, proving a failure to diagnose CES requires you to prove that the medical provider failed to act reasonably under the circumstances (also called a breach of the standard of care), and that this failure caused an injury. Each of these elements of the claim must be supported by medical expert testimony, and our attorneys are experienced and skilled in selecting the right experts for your case.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a failure to diagnose CES, then the law provides that you or your loved one are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost earnings (both past and future), medical expenses (both past and future), and other out-of-pocket expenses. Our attorneys are experienced and skilled in evaluating and maximizing the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
Why choose Morris James to represent you?
The lawyers of Morris James have been fighting for victims of negligence since we opened our doors in 1932. Our experienced and skilled medical malpractice attorneys understand the strategies used by healthcare providers to defend medical malpractice claims, and will fiercely counter those strategies in order to obtain the financial compensation that you deserve.
If a medical provider failed to appropriately and timely diagnose you or a loved one with cauda equina syndrome, our experience, and skilled medical malpractice lawyers are available to talk to you about your rights and options. Contact us online or call 302.888.6857 to find out more.