Sciatica and Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) can share similar symptoms. Because CES is a medical emergency, it’s important for doctors to know the Cauda Equina Syndrome red flags to look out for when examining a patient with back pain.
Sciatica vs. Cauda Equina Syndrome: What’s the Difference?
Sciatica is a common ailment that results from compression of the sciatic nerve. The usual cause is a herniated disc, though sciatica can also occur due to cancer, infection, or even pregnancy.
Sciatica is characterized by pain or numbness that develops along the path of the sciatic nerve running from the lower back down through the legs, knees and feet.
Sciatica is a fairly common condition that usually resolves itself within 6-12 weeks. Treatments can include applying heat or ice to the leg, pain medications and physical therapy. In more serious cases, surgery may be required.
On the other hand, Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. The causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome are similar to sciatica except that in CES, the compression is being applied to the cauda equina nerves located at the bottom of the spine.
CES is a rare but serious medical condition that requires immediate surgery to remove the pressure on the cauda equina nerves.
A delay of treatment caused by a misdiagnosis on the part of a doctor or other healthcare professional could have devastating effects on the patient, leaving them with:
- Permanent numbness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Even paralysis
Sciatica and Cauda Equina Syndrome Red Flags Doctors Should Watch For
One of the big red flags for diagnosing sciatica is that the pain is usually limited to only one side of the body. Other red flags that indicate sciatica include:
- Pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down the leg
- Pain when standing or sitting
- Numbness in the legs
- Weakness or numbness when moving a leg or foot
CES shares some of the same symptoms as sciatica, but there are some big Cauda Equina Syndrome red flags that doctors should be looking for:
- Severe back pain
- Saddle anesthesia
- Bowel or bladder incontinence or retention
- Sexual dysfunction
- Persistant pain
- Unexplained weight loss
The patient’s age and health history should also be considered by a doctor to determine if he is dealing with sciatica or something more serious.
If surgery is not performed within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, permanent damage, such as paraplegia, can result.
When examining a patient with back pain, it’s important for a doctor to pay close attention to any red flags observed during their examination. If he observes certain red flags, the doctor should immediately run tests on the patient to determine the exact cause of the pain and recommend an effective treatment. An MRI is usually the diagnostic procedure that is required to confirm CES.
Did Your Doctor Miss the Signs of CES?
While Cauda Equina Syndrome is not common, it happens much more often than people realize. Because of that, doctors often misdagnose CES it for something else and provide alternative treatments for the pain, such as bed rest, steroids or spinal injections.
These treatments may exacerbate the problem rather than help it. More importantly, the delay in proper treatment makes the eventual treatment ineffective.
If your doctor failed to correctly diagnose a problem like CES and you have suffered as a result, it’s important to speak to Fort Lauderdale Cauda Equina Syndrome attorney Lisa Levine as soon as possible. Often we have clients who have been treated for literally years and then come in for a free legal consultation, only to be told the statute of limitations, the time allowed to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, has past.
This may even occur, and often does, after repeated assurances by the doctor that it will go away, only to find a new doctor for a second opinion who tells them the real cause is Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). Finding out may not matter to stop the statute of limitations, and you have no redress.
We know that sounds unfair, and it is. We strongly recommend getting a second opinion sooner rather than later, not just to protect your health, but also to protect your legal rights.
Speak with a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Attorney
A trained health professional should recognize Cauda Equina Syndrome red flags that differentiate it from sciatica and order any further tests needed to confirm that their diagnosis is the correct one. When doctors fail to meet this level of care and the patient is harmed, that patient has a right to seek compensation for the damages resulting from that misdiagnosis.
Lisa Levine has had close to 60 Cauda Equina Syndrome cases and will litigate them nationally, with co-cousel if needed. She specializes in this specific syndrome and has successfully resolved many cases.
If you have been injured as a result of a misdiagnosed case of Cauda Equina Syndrome or other medical condition, don’t hesitate to contact Lisa Levine to discuss your legal rights and options. Lisa is a nationally recognized medical malpractice lawyer who has handled and consulted on cases across the U.S., including:
- New Jersey
- New York
In Florida, she has helped CES patients throughout the state collect the compensation they are owed for injuries caused by negligent acts of healthcare professionals, including in:
- Fort Lauderdale
- West Palm Beach
Call us today at (954) 256-1820 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case.