Life After Injury: Cauda Equina Syndrome Compensation
The Cauda Equina is a bundle of nerves located in the lumbar region of the spine, responsible for leg movement as well as bowel and urinary tract function.
Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is a rare but serious condition. In the majority of cases, it’s caused by a disc herniation in the lower back that causes the Cauda Equina to be compressed. There are other causes, including spinal trauma and infections, but herniated discs are the most common.
CES results in acute symptoms that develop quickly and can cause severe problems. It is more of an emergency than other kinds of spinal cord injury. This is because damage can be reversed if action is taken quickly. Sometimes, CES can be very difficult to diagnose early enough to treat successfully – and about 20% of cases lead to permanent spinal cord injury. These cases may be the result of clinical negligence, delayed surgery or when the surgery itself causes further complications.
If you have been diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome that was caused by an accident or by medical negligence, speak to Aspire Law – specialist spinal cord injury lawyers.
Understanding Cauda Equina Syndrome
The human vertebral column is made up of 33 vertebrae;
- 7 cervical
- 12 thoracic
- 5 lumbar
- 5 sacral
- 4 coccygeal (fused)
The lumbar and sacral nerve pairs comprise the cauda equina. The nerves of the cauda equina control the motor functions of the hips, knees, ankles, feet, and anal and bladder muscles. They control the sensory function of the perineum, and partially control the parasympathetic function of the bladder.
The parasympathetic nervous system plus the sympathetic nervous system control autonomic responses. The sympathetic controls the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic stimulates the body’s responses known as ‘rest and digest’ and ‘feed and breed.’
Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome
There are a number of symptoms that may indicate Cauda Equina Syndrome. These are the most important to look out for:
- Saddle anaesthesia (numbness in the genitals and buttocks)
- Bladder or bowel altered function or incontinence
- Sensory abnormalities in the bladder or rectum
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of reflexes in the legs or ankles
- Pain in the inside of your thighs, or in one or both legs or feet
The symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome can worsen rapidly. If there is a delay in diagnosis or treatment, this can reduce the chances of making a full recovery. About one in five people do not fully recover, and will have a spinal cord injury for life.
The most important thing to consider when adjusting to a life-changing injury is how you approach recovery and adjustment. The impact this can have on emotions, lifestyle and relationships is huge. We’ve aimed to highlight the importance of appropriately managing the mental effects of any adjustment period after spinal cord injury.
Adjusting to Spinal Cord Injury Is Hard
Adjusting to spinal cord injury is a process and not one singular action. It’s a series of experiences that shape how you view your injury. This sequence is heavily influenced by a person’s beliefs of disability. How you adjust depends on how these beliefs hold up when you test them in relation to the backdrop of your own new reality and disability. Accordingly, every individual's adjustment process will differ greatly.
It’s important to remember that adjusting to life after Cauda Equina Syndrome involves a network of people; friends, family, partners and a variety of medical professionals. These people will be vital in finding your new normal.
Finding your new normal is the key to any adjustment process. Rather than straining to see the bigger picture, think more immediately – “can I?” rather than “will I?”
Leaving the bigger questions unanswered, for most, is the more helpful approach. That’s because entertaining doubts and spiralling into negative thoughts can hinder or even halt the process.
When adjusting to spinal cord injury or Cauda Equina Syndrome, mindfulness allows individuals to focus on the present and to take each day as it comes, rather than dwelling on the future. The Mind website has lots of tips and tricks to help people get into and understand the benefits of mindfulness.
Ultimately, with Cauda Equina Syndrome, the mental and emotional process is more important than the physical. It’s a challenging time where you’ll have to consciously push yourself to achieve your optimum level of recovery.
Cauda Equina Syndrome Rehabilitation: Enabling Life After Injury
Following surgery, rehabilitation works to further stabilise a patient by preventing complications, maximising function and giving people the skills to reintegrate themselves back into society as confident, empowered and self-directing individuals.
While every spinal injury is intricate and unique, all SCI or CES rehabilitation programmes will include the following key milestones:
- Understand the injury sustained, and what it means for now and for the future
- Become as functionally independent as possible in activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Enable competent wheelchair use if necessary
- Help adjust to and accept a new lifestyle
- Understand the benefits of personal carers
- Maintain and return to employment and/or reintegrate into society
Rehabilitation can be completely life changing. Beth Kolbe, an American Paralympian swimmer with several gold medals to her name, had no inclination to swim prior to her spinal cord injury. It was only after experiencing the freedom water gave her as part of her rehab that Kolbe took to the water. She says that her injury actually enhanced her life:
“I’ve had so many opportunities because I became paraplegic. I don’t think I would give that up.”
Kolbe demonstrates that openness and a willingness to try things can see you through your rehabilitation, even when things are at their hardest. With the right approach, rehab can change everything, to put you on a path to an enabled life after injury.
Cauda Equina Syndrome Compensation Claim
People who’ve experienced a permanent spinal cord injury as a result of Cauda Equina Syndrome should consider whether they may have a claim for compensation.
If your injury was the result of negligence or delayed surgery, then you could be due a financial settlement.
Compensation can help to transform life after injury; it pays for adaptations to homes, making them more accessible, and for the purchase of specialist equipment.
Making a Spinal Injury Compensation Claim
At Aspire Law we deal with dozens of spinal cord injury claims a year and we have a vast knowledge of the complex issues surrounding spinal cord injury claims. You will receive the very highest standard of service and representation available, from the only dedicated spinal cord injury law firm.
Following your initial enquiry, we will arrange for you to meet with one of our lawyers. They’ll talk to you about the circumstances surrounding your injury and advise on the various funding arrangements. Most claims are funded under a conditional fee agreement (no win, no fee arrangement). Following that, we will investigate your claim, starting with all of the available evidence, so that we can consider the merits of your claim at an early stage.
We know the legal process can be daunting, so we keep regular contact with you to let you know what’s happening with your case and to break down the legal jargon – so that you understand what’s happening at every stage.
We’re committed to securing the very highest level of compensation award and we will manage all aspects of your claim, giving practical help for the challenges you will undoubtedly face.
If you want to know more about the claim process, discuss a second opinion or whether you have a case, please get in touch today.
Aspire Law is a unique partnership between the Aspire charity and Moore Barlow. We are the only law firm dedicated to helping people with spinal cord injuries, and 50% of all our profits go straight back into supporting health services, SCI centres and the SCI community.
With in-depth knowledge and experience of helping spinal cord injury patients, we are best placed to deal with your claim. We’ve helped clients who were injured as a result of road traffic accidents, clinical negligence and accidents at work.
We have excellent working relationships with some of the biggest UK insurers (who are largely responsible for the compensation paid in these cases). This can prove invaluable in securing co-operation at an early stage – for example, when adaptations are required to an inaccessible property, or when an interim payment is needed to cover your income.
Unlike other law firms, we also have the support of Aspire, who can advise on housing, benefits, work – and offer a number of services such as grants, assistive technology and adapted homes.
We’re able to support our clients from every side; giving them the best chance of a positive outcome. Find out more in this video.