When a 19-year-old female entered an emergency room complaining of severe lower back pain and pelvic numbness, she was sent home without an MRI or a neurological consultation. She returned to the emergency room with worsening conditions that now included urinary retention and loss of rectal tone. Eventually, she was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, which is a severe neurological condition that requires immediate medical attention in order to avoid serious and permanent neurological injury, including incontinence and permanent paralysis.
As a result of the initial failure to diagnose, the woman continues to suffer from ailments related to cauda equina syndrome. She filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland and the jury placed responsibility on the medical providers. Cauda equina syndrome occurs when the nerve roots in the lumbar spine are compressed, cutting off sensation and movement. Nerve roots that control the function of the bladder and bowel are especially vulnerable to damage. If patients with cauda equina syndrome do not seek immediate treatment to relieve the pressure, it can result in permanent paralysis, impaired bladder and/or bowel control, loss of sexual sensation, and other problems. Even with immediate treatment, some patient may not recover complete function.
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