Cauda Equina Syndrome – An Overview

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The condition occurs when the nerve roots of the Cauda Equina are compressed. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt hospital treatment.

Cauda Equina gets its name from the Latin for ‘horse’s tail’. This is because it is the bundle of nerve roots located within the lowest part of the spinal column and visually resembles a horse’s tail. The nerves are responsible for the supply of nerves to the bladder, bowels, lower limbs and sensations to the skin around the saddle area (the area between the legs).

Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Compression of the nerves is usually caused by a disc herniation in the lower region of the back.

There are, however, other causes, such as:

  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Cancer
  • Epidural abscesses
  • Infections
  • Trauma

Red flag signs and symptoms

It is important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms that may indicate Cauda Equina Syndrome:

  • Lower back pain
  • Leg pain, numbness or weakness
  • Pain that radiates down the leg
  • Numbness in the saddle region (between the legs) and buttocks
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Sexual problems

The symptoms usually start suddenly and progress quickly although in some cases the symptoms cam start slowly.

See a doctor immediately if you suspect Cauda Equina Syndrome.


The usual method of diagnosis is through an MRI scan and this should be done when any suspicion of the condition is had. Other possible diagnosis methods are a CT-scan and tests of bladder control.


Urgent surgery is often needed to relieve the pressure on the impacted nerves. The sooner decompression surgery takes place the better the chance of preventing permanent physical and neurological problems, such as incontinence and paralysis.

Cauda Equina Syndrome negligence claims

Even though the condition is considered rare, there are a high number of medical negligence claims bought each year. This is due to the small window of opportunity in which the syndrome can be treated and if the window is missed the patient can be left with permanent physical and neurological injuries.

Successful medical negligence claims have included:

  • Delay in performing decompression surgery
  • Failure to recognise red flag symptoms
  • Failure to investigate red flag symptoms
  • Delay in carrying out scans
  • Radiologist misinterpreting an MRI scan leading to the diagnosis being missed

This list is not exhaustive and it is always worth obtaining legal advice, regardless of the circumstances surrounding diagnosis and treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome.

How Nelsons can help

At Nelsons, our expert Medical Negligence team in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham are specialists and well experienced in Cauda Equina Syndrome negligence claims. If you are concerned there was a delay in the diagnosis or treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome, mistreatment, or any other negligence regarding your care, we are here to help you.

Please contact us on 0800 024 1976 or complete our contact form and we will contact you as soon as possible.