Cauda equina compensation claims

Mistakes happen when medical professionals fail to consider rare conditions. Cauda equina claims nearly all stem from medical professionals dismissing symptoms as simply due to chronic back pain when, in fact, they are due to early cauda equina syndrome and if treated urgently the patient can make a full recovery.  

Typically the medical professional, usually a GP but also frequently junior A&E doctors, fail to listen to the patient and fail either to warn the patient of “red flag” signs which, if they develop need urgent investigation and treatment or fail to properly examine the patient to exclude or identify “red flag” symptoms.  

The patient may attend complaining predominantly of severe lower back pain, perhaps with altered sensation in the lower limbs, and possibly reporting altered sexual sensation, reduced / absent sensation in the perineum, reduced anal tone and / or constipation, lack or sensation during urination, urinary retention or urinary incontinence.  

The further along the list of symptoms above the more likely the patient to be suffering from evolving cauda equina syndrome requiring urgent investigation by MRI scan and, when pressure on the spinal cord is identified, immediate surgery to release the pressure.  

Common cauda equina syndrome negligence claims

Why choose Boyes Turner?

At Boyes Turner we have 25 years experience of working for clients with cauda equina syndrome and understand exactly what can and does go wrong and in what situations a claim is likely to succeed.  

Compensation payments often exceed £500,000 once the need for adapted accommodation, treatment, loss of earnings, and the costs of care and assistance are taken into account. There are treatments for patients with cauda equina syndrome however referral to a specialist spinal unit is rare and treatment availability under NHS funding and the outcome of treatment is uncertain. A medico legal claim can obtain compensation to allow treatments including sacral nerve stimulation and/or pudendal nerve stimulation to be trialed and to ensure regular urological review if there are difficulties voiding urine.  


£275,000 compensation for man with Cauda Equina Syndrome

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£400,000 compensation recovered after delay in diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome

Jayne began experiencing worsening back pain, and couldn’t tolerate sitting down. The...

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£250,000 compensation settlement following a delay in diagnosing cauda equina syndrome

Wendy* approached Boyes Turner to represent her in a medical negligence claim against a hospital...

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Delay in diagnosis of cauda equina - £98,000 compensation awarded

On 7 November 2008 Nigel, aged 50, was required to move heavy boxes at work.  Whilst doing...

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Cauda Equina FAQs

  • What is cauda equina syndrome?

    Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a rare but serious neurological condition caused by compression of the nerves in the spinal column.

    Cauda equina syndrome requires emergency surgery. If not treated urgently, it can leave an individual with permanent and devastating disabilities.

    The cauda equina nerves control bladder, bowel and sexual function and damage to them can have very serious and life changing consequences.

  • What causes cauda equina syndrome?

    Cauda equina syndrome is caused by compression of a group of nerves, which can be very susceptible to injury. These nerves supply the muscles of the legs, the bladder, the bowel and genitals. If the pressure is relieved quickly, the nerves should recover without leaving the individual with permanent disability.

    Causes of cauda equina syndrome include: 

    • Traumatic injury
    • Disc herniation
    • Infectious conditions
    • Inflammatory conditions
    • Spinal tumours
    • Congenital conditions
  • What are the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome?

    Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include: 

    • Lower back pain
    • Radiating pain
    • Numbness and/or weakness and/or pain in the legs 
    • Loss of sensation in the buttock and perineal region
    • Reduced anal tone
    • Sexual dysfunction/loss of sensation

    Cauda equina syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because not all of the above symptoms will be experienced. The symptoms can be of varying degrees and over different timescales. 

    Cauda equina syndrome is a rare condition but doctors should be aware of the "red flag" symptoms listed here and must ensure that there are no significant delays in providing medical treatment. An early diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome is vital. 

  • Can the condition be reversed?

     Neurosurgeons and spinal surgeons working in this field of medicine will say that urgent surgery can prevent symptoms getting worse and can sometimes allow the patient to recover from the symptoms they were suffering.  However once permanent damage has been caused to the spinal cord reversal of symptoms is unlikely. 

    Cauda equina syndrome is therefore a surgical emergency as, until complete damage has occurred, further damage can be prevented and there may be some recovery of symptoms / function.

    Up until the time the patient crosses the threshold from incomplete cauda equina syndrome (CESI) to complete cauda equina syndrome (CESR) urgent surgery is mandated.  CESR is thought to occur once bladder damage is complete and the patient has no bladder sensation whether or not in urinary retention. 

    Due to the devastating consequences and the small window of opportunity to prevent lifelong disability, cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency.

    Cauda equina syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because not all of the above symptoms will be experienced. The symptoms can be of varying degrees and over different timescales.

We've put together some infographics to help with understanding the widely varying symptoms associated with cauda equina in more detail.

I am overwhelmed by the outcome in terms of the monetary value and know I should consider it as a near a 'sorry' as I am likely to get from the hospital. It will be nice to start the process of closure on the whole issue now and look towards the future for us as a family. 

Mrs T, Surrey 

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