Experienced NJ Cauda Equina Syndrome Malpractice Attorneys Representing Victims and Families
Cauda equina syndrome is a potentially paralyzing condition that can lead to life-long treatment. When the nerve endings at the base of the spine become impacted, an individual may experience bowel or bladder problems and numbness. And the longer the condition remains untreated, the more likely it will lead to permanent loss of sensation and use in the pelvic region. As such, quick diagnosis and treatment is the most effective way to prevent irreparable damage. Conversely, when negligent healthcare professionals misdiagnose the condition, or fail to diagnose it, the person who suffers harm as a result may have a medical malpractice claim.
Understanding Cauda Equina Syndrome
The cauda equina is a nerve network located far down the spinal cord. When a compressed disk, surgery, or injury compresses that nerve bundle, the effects radiate throughout the lower body. A sufferer may experience numbness in the bladder, bowels, anus, arms, hands, legs, and feet. They may not be able to use their bladder or bowel effectively. The longer the condition is untreated, the longer oxygen and blood flow is restricted, leaving the area paralyzed.
Contributing Factors that May Lead to Cauda Equina Syndrome
Many conditions may contribute to cauda equina, the most common being a herniated disk. However, other causes include collateral conditions such as spinal stenosis, spinal lesions, ankylosing spondylitis, Paget’s disease, spinal fracture, and osteoporosis. Other contributors include tumors, spinal lesions, inflammation, infection, puncture wounds, bleeding, spinal column narrowing, congenital disabilities, or spinal manipulation complications.
Be Aware of Potential Signs of Cauda Equina
You may suspect you have this condition if you experience bladder trouble, meaning difficulty urinating or urine control loss. You may feel numbness or weakness in the groin, genitals, and pelvic region. You may have difficulty with bowel movements, meaning problems having a bowel movement due to lost sensation. However, you may also feel pain in the lower back, arm, and leg.
How do Doctors Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome?
When you see a doctor complaining about lower back pain or sciatica, which causes pain to radiate down the leg from the buttock, they may begin their diagnosis by examining the lower spine. The doctor may physically inspect the pain area and ask questions about the pain onset and whether you have had an accident, injury, or illness that may have caused the lower back pain. However, a careful physician will seek to investigate the cause of the back pain to rule out more serious conditions, like cauda equina. They typically do a detailed physical examination and history and order an MRI or CAT scan, which will show the compressed nerve bundle in the lower spine, perhaps caused by a disk, blood, inflammation, or other causes.
Complications due to Undiagnosed CES
Since time is of the essence, your physician must promptly order tests and review the results to schedule surgery to relieve the compression once the diagnosis is cauda equina. Otherwise, the condition can progress, causing permanent damage to the lower extremities. Once paralysis sets in, you may need medication, physical therapy, and drug therapy for the rest of your life. You may also need medical assistive devices to help you walk, relieve your bladder or bowels, and perform daily functions.
Complications due to delayed treatment arising from medical malpractice can occur in various forms with CES, from annoying to severely debilitating. They include some or all of the following:
- Infected kidney cysts – occur when pooled urine stretches the tubes connecting to the kidney and causes blockages
- Diverticulitis – intestinal inflammation or infection
- Hydronephrosis – kidney swelling due to poor urine drainage
- Hemorrhoids – inflammation of the blood vessels around the anus from straining
- Bladder and bowel incontinence – leakage of urine or feces due to poor bladder or bowel control
- Permanent leg nerve damage – from lack of blood flow and oxygen due to compressed nerves
- Foot drop – inability to lift the front of the foot due to nerve damage
- Sexual dysfunction – erectile dysfunction due to nerve damage
- Chronic pain – many of the complications from untreated cauda equina syndrome cause constant pain
Types of Medical Negligence with Cauda Equina Syndrome
When a physician does not order an MRI or CAT scan but refers you to a physical therapist instead, you may miss that window of opportunity to correct the condition and avoid further consequences. Misdiagnosis is a common misstep for busy physicians, so when they assume you have a slipped disk and order therapy, they may be liable for your worsening condition and resulting damages.
However, a physical therapist may make your condition worse when the source of the problem is compressed nerves and not a disk that needs to be repositioned to relieve pressure from compressed nerves. A competent physician might have referred the patient to a specialist, such as an orthopedist, to confirm their diagnosis or to run tests to find the actual condition.
However, your doctor could send you home with pain medications and advise bed rest until the condition improves or, if it worsens, to call the office and set up another appointment. In failing to diagnose the condition, your healthcare provider wastes valuable time that could save you from permanent loss of use of your bladder, bowel, or extremities.
Your doctor’s office may also be negligent in not following up with you to check on your condition. Sometimes, a failure of communication between the office or hospital staff may result in a patient going home without further follow-up. When that happens with cauda equina syndrome, a patient may believe they are not in danger since the doctor did not take tests nor do more than give pain medications and prescribe rest, so they may ignore the pain for a few days until severe damage occurs.
Liability in Cauda Equina Malpractice Claims
When your medical provider causes you injury due to negligence, they are responsible by law to compensate you for physical and emotional pain, suffering, and losses. Your medical bills will continue for the rest of your life, and you should not have to pay for those when someone who owed you a duty to practice medicine competently failed you and caused you permanent injury. Your medical claim can yield past, present, and future medical expenses covered by the responsible party. It also covers your lost wages, past and future, and compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced and continue to experience.
To prove your claim, you will need the help of an experienced, prepared medical malpractice attorney. Establishing that a medical professional did not do what any other competent would have done with a similar patient with the samej complaints and conditions takes a medical expert and a well-assembled body of evidence. A qualified medical expert explains to a jury and attests to the standard medical practices and protocols when a patient complains of back, leg, arm, hand, or foot pain or pelvic numbness. They give their expert opinion about your medical provider’s negligence as the cause of your complications and damages. This testimony, combined with medical records, detailed information about what happened in the course of your diagnosis and treatment, and other key data can be used to prove your claim for cauda equina syndrome malpractice so that you can recover maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact our New Jersey Cauda Equina Syndrome Lawyers to Discuss Your Legal Options
If you or someone you love suffered harm due to misdiagnosed cauda equina syndrome, failure to diagnose the condition, or improper treatment of CES resulting in complications, contact the talented team of New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group for a free case evaluation and discussion of your legal options. Once we review your claim, we can supply the medical experts and prepare your case for a settlement negotiation with an insurance company or trial before a jury. Our legal team will work with other professionals who can help you compile medical bills, assess your future financial and medical losses, and ascertain a settlement figure that will compensate you entirely for your damages, including physical, emotional, and financial losses. Contact our law office today at 973-435-4551 for assistance and to speak with a dedicated medical malpractice lawyer about your rights to compensation.