Cauda equina syndrome (CES) can be a hugely debilitating condition if it is not treated quickly and effectively.

Its symptoms can be attributed to a variety of other causes, and given how rare CES is, affecting roughly 1 in 65,000 people, it can often go undetected or misdiagnosed.

If you feel you are suffering with what could be CES, it is vital you contact your GP and schedule a medical assessment.

Between 2008 and 2018 in Ireland, 71 claims for compensation in cases of cauda equina syndrome were filed – 42 were finalised and over €20 million was paid in damages.

If you feel you have suffered CES, or any form of spinal injury, as a result of medical negligence, you may want to consider contacting a Medical Negligence Solicitor who can assist you in a claim for compensation.

Operating out of Dublin, Hughes & Associates Solicitors boast plenty of experience in cases of medical negligence. Get in touch to discuss the merits of your case by emailing or phoning +353 1 891 0020.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The cauda equina are a group of nerves beginning at the bottom of the spinal cord that run through the spinal canal in the lower back. 

They impact the bladder, bowel, legs and sexual organs – as a result, its symptoms are wide-ranging, although the most common symptom of CES is urinary retention. 

Cauda equina syndrome occurs when these nerves stop functioning properly, and the connection between the spinal cord and the lower limbs and pelvis organs is severed. 

Grounds for medical negligence in cases of CES are usually built on one of the following assertions:

  1. Your CES has developed, and your condition has suffered because you weren’t treated quickly enough. 
  2. An error in surgery has exacerbated your CES, and the practitioner responsible did not deliver an appropriate standard of medical care. 

As with all cases of clinical negligence, it must be proven that the treatment you received did not meet the appropriate duty of care to which you were entitled. 

It must also be shown that the medical professional’s negligence had a direct impact on your injury.

Contact Hughes & Associates for help with your Medical Negligence Claim

What are the Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The symptoms of CES vary in extremity but can be life-altering. Some of the more common features of the syndrome include:

  • Pain, tingling and numbness in your legs, lower back and feet.
  • Saddle anaesthesia – a numbness or tingling in the saddle region, which includes your inner thighs, groin and buttocks.
  • Urinary retention, meaning an inability or lack of impetus to urinate despite having a full bladder.
  • Faecal incontinence, meaning an inability to excrete faeces effectively, as a result of dysfunction in the anal sphincter.
  • Loss of sexual sensation.
  • Paralysis.

These are known as red flag symptoms, and if you are experiencing any of them, you should seek immediate medical advice. 

What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The most common cause of CES is a herniated disc, also referred to as a slipped disc, which occurs when a fragment of the disc protecting your bones in the spinal column ruptures and is pushed into the spinal canal. 

A herniated disc usually happens over time as a result of aging and natural wear-and-tear, although it can occur in a moment of excessive strain such as a heavy lift that puts too much pressure on the back as opposed to the legs. 

Other factors that influence your likelihood of developing cauda equina syndrome include:

  • Your family history/genetics – you may be more biologically susceptible to CES.
  • Your weight – excess weight can increase the likelihood of a herniated disc.
  • Your line of work – certain jobs place more strain on your back than others, such as those that require frequent, heavy lifting.
  • Lack of physical activity – on the other hand, if you have very little physical movement in your day-to-day life, you are at a higher risk of developing CES.
  • Smoking – smoking is believed to weaken discs by limiting their supply of oxygen.

Cauda Equina Syndrome Medical Negligence

If you report your symptoms to a doctor, and they fail to warn you of the potential development of CES, it may reduce the impact of any surgery down the line. 

CES requires immediate, emergency treatment because of the potential significance of its development. If that surgery is not initially recommended, the consequences can be devastating. 

It is absolutely vital that doctors recognise CES in patients as early as possible, and that their symptoms are taken into account when a diagnosis is delivered. 

If you suffer from CES and you feel as though your doctor or medical practitioner did not deliver an appropriate standard of care when you alerted them to the symptoms of your condition, there may be grounds for a CES medical negligence claim.

Contact Hughes & Associates for help with your Medical Negligence Claim

Living With Cauda Equina Syndrome and Follow-Up Treatment

It is important to remember that initial treatment following a diagnosis may not solve every issue for an individual who develops CES.

Cauda equina syndrome is labelled chronic if you suffer with symptoms for a lengthy period of time before receiving treatment. 

If you go too long without surgery, or if the operation does not fully restore your nerves, you may deal with long-term symptoms that require physical rehabilitation and may suffer symptoms for the remainder of your life. 

From a legal perspective, you are entitled to expect a certain standard of care in your CES treatment post-surgery. 

If a medical practitioner prescribes medication or sets you on a course of rehabilitation that exacerbates your condition, they may be liable for medical negligence.

How Long Do I Have to Claim for Cauda Equina Syndrome in Ireland?

In Ireland, there is a two-year window to claim for medical negligence, beginning on the date of knowledge that the negligence is alleged to have been place.  

Extenuating circumstances relax the harshness of this timeframe, such as a legal disability or a claimant being under the age of eighteen. 

Still, in general, two years is a very short period of time to claim for medical negligence and it means you need begin legal proceedings as soon as possible when you realise you may have grounds for a claim. 

It is also heavily advised that you make contact with the party you hold responsible for your condition within one month of the incident so that they can investigate your claim – doing so will help your chances of success in any court case that takes place down the line.  

Can I Claim for Cauda Equina Syndrome in Ireland?

If you feel as though your cauda equina syndrome is the result of, or has been made worse by, inadequate care from a medical professional, get in touch with an experienced Medical Negligence Solicitor who can assess your case.

At Hughes & Associates, our team has vast knowledge of medical negligence law and can guide you on your situation. We are available to assess your case and advise you on the merits of any potential claim for cauda equina syndrome compensation.

Based in Dublin and serving claimants living in Ireland, you can reach us over email at or by phone on +353 1 891 0020.

Contact the Hughes & Associates Team