Cauda Equina Syndrome is a neurological disorder that stems from an injury to the bundle of nerve roots that exit the spinal cord. Cauda equina frequently leads to medical malpractice lawsuits.
The treatment for Cauda Equina Syndrome is generally immediate surgical decompression. The sooner this can be achieved, the better. You usually have a 48-hour window of opportunity with which you can reverse the symptoms. The malpractice lawsuits in these cases occur when the symptoms were there to be seen during that window but were missed, usually in the ER or by a primary care doctor or by the surgical staff after spinal surgery.
Doctors frequently miss the clear symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome which include:
- Low back pain
- Sciatica (particularly at L5/S1)
- Loss of sensation in the butt or genital sensory disturbance
- Bowel, bladder, or sexual dysfunction (bladder complications are a particular hallmark of cauda equina).
These symptoms are often easy enough to detect. But an examination to rule out cauda equina be a complete neurological exam that includes testing around the rectum, perineum, and genitals. A bladder scan can determine if there was urinary retention.
- Learn more about Cauda Equina Syndrome lawsuits and how these cases are valued
- Learn more about how medical malpractice cases are valued for settlement
Cauda Equina Settlements and Verdicts
Below are sample verdicts and settlements in cauda equina cases. These cases tend to settle because the damages are often extremely high because the injuries are permanent and severe. These cases can help you better understand the settlement values in these cases. But there are limits to what you can glean from these results.
- 2019, New Jersey: $1,700,000 Verdict. A 39-year-old woman presented to the emergency room, complaining of weakness and numbness to her lower back. She also experienced bowel and bladder function loss. Upon being catheterized, she voided a significant amount of urine. The woman eventually regained sensory and motor functioning to her legs but sustained permanent numbness to her feet. She also now needed a cane to walk. The woman claimed that if she underwent an MRI, it would have revealed cauda equina syndrome. However, she only received the diagnosis four hours after she presented to the emergency room. The woman claimed that surgery could have treated her condition had there been no delay in her diagnosis. A jury awarded $1,700,000.
- 2018, New Jersey: $1,900,000 Verdict. A 54-year-old construction supervisor underwent spinal surgery. Shortly after the procedure, he developed an epidural hematoma that resulted in spinal cord compression and cauda equina syndrome. He alleged that his treating health care facility delayed diagnosing and treating his condition. The man also claimed that the physicians failed to consult a neurosurgeon after his MRI revealed spinal cord compression and epidural hematoma. A jury awarded $1,900,000. However, they determined the man’s pre-existing spinal hematoma and cord compression caused 20 percent of his damages. The court entered a final judgment of $250,000.
- 2015, Illinois: $2,000,000 Settlement. A 63-year-old man has minimally invasive L4-L5 transforaminal lumbar fusion performed by the defendant neurosurgeon. His pre-operative neurological exam is normal. However, after the procedure, he wakes up with cauda equina syndrome and cannot move his feet. The records from surgery indicate that the somatosensory which evokes signals that monitor spinal cord function during surgery was lost, but his EMG stayed normal. After the surgery, he suffers two drop feet, his right worse than his left, and neurologic pain syndrome. His malpractice lawyer claims the surgeons’ negligence led to his neurological injuries, as they failed to properly place the interbody implant, which crushed his nerve root and resulted in cauda equina syndrome. The defendants deny this and dispute the extent of his injuries. The parties settle for $2,000,000 before trial.
- 2011, New York: $4,900,000 Settlement. A 30-year-old female presents to Jacobi Medical Center with signs of cauda equina. She has a spinal tap, which shows an epidural hematoma, spinal fluid leak, and a MRSA wound infection. She claims that the defendants fail to properly diagnose her condition, order the correct scans, and fail to transfer her to a neurological or spinal specialist. As a result, she now requires 24/7 nursing care, and she suffers paraplegia, bowel and bladder incontinence, sexual dysfunction, chronic UTIs, and bed sores to her right leg and heel. The parties settle for $4.9 million.
- 2002, Illinois: $3,350,000 Settlement: A 55-year-old man gets a discectomy. The doctor allegedly improperly applies a fat patch. Compounding the problem, the hospital misses the man’s cauda equina syndrome symptoms. Had Highland Park Hospital personnel identified Mr. Conrad’s symptoms in a timely fashion, immediate surgery could have prevented permanent damage. The man has a permanent loss of bladder, bowel, and sexual function.
- 2001, Ohio: $2,000,000 Settlement. A 47-year-old woman is seeing a chiropractor. After a chiropractic manipulation, she allegedly experienced an inability to urinate. She goes to the emergency department and is diagnosed with urinary retention. She returns to the ER 14 hours later and is diagnosed with acute cauda equina syndrome and a disc herniation. She gets immediate surgery but becomes permanently incontinent along with a permanent loss of sensation in the pelvic area. Her lawsuit alleges that if she had been properly diagnosed and treated during the first emergency room visit, her injuries could have been avoided.
- 2001, Maryland: $1,080,000 Verdict. An adult male goes to the defendant with lower back pain. He argues the defendant did not treat him in a timely manner, or provide the proper tests, which would show that he needed emergency surgery. As a result, he allegedly suffers a herniated disc resulting in cauda equina syndrome, neurological deficits, numbness, and loss of control of his muscles in his leg. A jury awards the man $1,080,000.
Cauda Equina Syndrome Defense Verdicts
These cases are not always slam dunk winners, which is one reason why you need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to handle your case. Here are a few defense verdicts. Incredibly, doctors and hospitals often defend these cases, arguing diagnosing the patients early would have made no difference. It is commonly understood in the medical community that speed is critical in stopping and reversing these neurological problems. But, ethically, researchers could never set up a human-based controlled experiment to test the relationship between the timing of surgical decompression of the cauda equine nerves and surgical outcomes. Because it would be criminal not to treat those patients.
- 2019, Oregon. A 76-year-old woman underwent back surgery. The surgeon encountered dural rent and repaired it intraoperatively. He used a DuraSeal, which swelled up and caused nerve compression. The woman developed a pseudomeningocele as a result. She alleged that the surgeon failed to timely identify and treat cauda equina syndrome. The woman further alleged that if he identified cauda equina syndrome signs, decompressed the pseudomeningocele, and removed the DuraSeal, her injuries would not have been permanent. A jury ruled in favor of the defense.
- 2018, Arizona. A woman underwent an emergency lumbar laminectomy and facetectomy at L3 as well as a partial laminectomy at L4. This was done to treat her cauda equine syndrome. She alleged that the surgeon caused a spinal fluid leak, numbness, and low back pain that went down to the right leg. The woman also claimed that the surgeon also undercut the L3, thus damaging L4 facet. She also claimed that the surgeon failed to diagnose the fluid leakage for six weeks. The surgeon and health care facility denied liability and disputed the facet fracture’s cause. A jury ruled in favor of the surgeon and facility.
- 2013, New York. A 27-year-old female goes to defendant NYU Hospitals, where she alleges the defendant doctor fails to diagnose and treat her herniated L5-S1 disc when she tells him about her back pain. She alleges that he deviated from the standard of care and that he did not adequately warn her of risks of not treating her cauda equina syndrome or of alternative methods of treatment. As a result, she permanent impairment and had to undergo a laminectomy and neural foraminotomy. The defendants deny liability, and the jury finds for the defendants.
- 2000, California. Plaintiff has spinal surgery done at Columbia Good Samaritan Hospital, specifically a laminectomy and fusion at L4-L5. He alleges that after the surgery, the hospital staff carelessly monitored him, resulting in a delayed diagnosis of an epidural hematoma as well as cauda equina syndrome. This has left him with permanent neurological deficits. A jury finds against him, and for the defendants.
Getting a Cauda Equina Lawyer
You need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to handle these cases. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation. We can help you get justice and money damages for the harm that has been done.