In response to the growing costs of settling Cauda Equina Syndrome related litigation, the United Kingdom’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently adopted new guidelines to help physicians correctly diagnose the symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome when examining patients complaining of back pain.
Cauda Equina Syndrome, or CES, occurs when pressure is placed on the Cauda Equina, a bundle of nerves located at the base of the spine that transfers signals between the brain and the lower half of the body. CES is a medical emergency. If the pressure is not relieved immediately, the patient may experience severe injuries, including pain, numbness, bladder and bowel problems, sexual dysfunction, and even paralysis.
Because of its rapid progression, it’s important that the attending physician correctly diagnose the condition so that a patient can get the emergency medical treatment they require. This can be difficult, because the symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome are similar to those of less serious conditions such as sciatica. A physician needs to recognize the specific symptoms or “red flags” that point to CES and order the specific tests and examinations, such as radiological imaging, necessary to confirm or deny their diagnosis.
Litigation in the UK Prompted Changes in CES Diagnosis Guidelines
Just like in the U.S., when a physician in the UK fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses CES and the patient becomes injured as a result, the patient can seek compensation for the damages caused by the doctor’s error by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. These types of lawsuits can have a beneficial effect beyond just helping the patient pay for long-term care costs: These cases can spur healthcare providers to address and correct the problems that led to the lawsuits.
That’s just what happened in the UK. Research by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) in 2016 found that failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome was one of the top five medical errors that led to the most expensive medical malpractice claims. Cases of CES typically settle for six-figure sums where negligence is established but can run into the millions if long-term care is required.
The New Red Flag Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome
The MPS and NICE looked into the problem and determined that the previous red flag symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome created too high a threshold for urgent investigation, which meant many patients were referred for treatment too late.
The new revised red flags for diagnosing CES include:
- Bilateral sciatica
- Severe or progressive bilateral neurological deficit of the legs, such as major motor weakness with knee extension, ankle eversion, or foot dorsiflexion
- Difficulty initiating micturition or impaired sensation of urinary flow; if untreated, this may lead to irreversible urinary retention with overflow urinary incontinence.
- Loss of sensation of rectal fullness; if untreated this may lead to irreversible fecal incontinence.
- Perianal, perineal or genital sensory loss (saddle anesthesia or paraesthesia)
- Laxity of the anal sphincter
They recommend that any patient exhibiting any of these symptoms should be immediately examined for CES.
These new guidelines help physicians and others to provide the standard level of care their patient’s require and have the potential to save health care providers and their insurers millions in costly litigation.
Cauda Equina Syndrome Attorney Helping Clients Across the United States
Misdiagnosis of Cauda Equina Syndrome isn’t just a problem across the pond in Great Britain. Here in the U.S., far too many patients are facing lifelong pain and suffering because of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome timely. When this occurs, the medical professional who failed to adequately assess your symptoms or treat them in a timely fashion can and should be held liable.
When it comes to Cauda Equina Syndrome medical malpractice cases in the United States, few attorneys can match the experience or expertise of Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney Lisa Levine. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of CES anywhere in the United States, please call the law offices of Lisa Levine today to schedule your free confidential consultation.