Top 10 questions about Cauda Equina claims

4 Min Read


Anatomical drawing of a spine

The cauda equina is a part of the body that not many people have heard of, but if it is damaged it can leave you with serious physical symptoms.

In this article we explain what the Cauda Equina is and where in your body you can find it, as well as looking at the important job it does and the symptoms you can be left with if it has been injured.

1. What is the Cauda Equina and where is it found?

The cauda equina is the bundle of nerve roots located at the lower end of the spinal cord.

A diagram showing where in the human body the cauda equina is - it's in the spinal cord

2. Where does the Cauda Equina get its name?

The name ‘cauda equina’ comes from the Latin for ‘horse’s tail’ as the bundle of nerves at the centre of the spine looks like a horse’s tail as it ends the cord.

3. What does the Cauda Equina do?

The cauda equina descends into the pelvis and is involved in perineal sensation, bladder and bowel control and sexual function.

4. What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

If the cauda equina nerves become compressed from pressure this is known as ‘cauda equina syndrome.’ This can cause permanent problems if not treated properly, and speed of diagnosis is crucial. Cauda Equina syndrome can be brought on by damage to the discs which cushion the spinal cord, and that might be the result of an accident or negligent medical treatment.

5. What are the main symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The main signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include:

  1. Problems with bladder function/passing urine
  2. Problems with bowel function
  3. Incontinence of urine or faeces
  4. Loss of perineal sensation i.e. a numbness around the anus and buttocks
  5. Impairment of anal sphincter tone

6. What are the early signs of Cauda Equina syndrome?

Many people report that the early signs of developing cauda equina syndrome may include:

  1. Lower back pain
  2. Numbness in the area around the hips and thighs
  3. Tingling in the area around the hips and thighs
  4. Or weakness along the course of the nerve either on one or both sides of the spinal cord which can affect the legs or the saddle region ie groin and buttocks

7. How is Cauda Equina Syndrome diagnosed?

Cauda equina syndrome is usually diagnosed by clinical examination and radiological investigations such as an MRI scan. Early detection is crucial. It is then usually treated by decompressive surgery, which needs to be done as soon as possible to prevent any further loss of function.

8. What happens if Cauda Equina Syndrome is not diagnosed and treated?

A delay in diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome can cause permanent damage to bladder/bowel function, sexual function and even your ability to walk. The injury can be permanent and significantly impact every aspect of your life.

9. Why consider making a cauda equina claim?

If there has been a negligent delay in diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome you may be able to make a clinical negligence claim. The effect of the damage can be devastating on everyday life and might leave you needing expensive equipment, rehabilitation, even full-time care and even a need for a specially adapted home. A successful claim can help you pay for these things.

10. What is involved in a clinical negligence claim?

A clinical negligence claim will usually be for compensation relating to:

  1. Your pain, suffering and loss of amenity
  2. Lost earnings
  3. Care and therapies
  4. Accommodation

Any successful claim will aim to recover these costs for you so that your care will not be limited to what the NHS or Local Authority are able to offer.

The value of a claim will vary on a case by case basis and very much depends on the level of disability you’ve been left with and how likely you are to make a full recovery. The claim will likely take between two to three years to conclude, but it will depend on the severity and complexity of the injury. Cases relating to very complex injuries can take up to five years to conclude.

An example of a Cauda Equina compensation claim: Cauda Equina Compensation Claims | Enable Law

Example of a Case: Shaw v Stead (2019) EWHC 520 (QB) : Cauda Equina Syndrome: A Missed Diagnosis | Enable Law illustrating where a GP was found to have breached his duty to his patient by failing to spot the signs of cauda equina syndrome and refer her urgently to hospital.


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