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 case tend to settle because the damages are often extremely high because to 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.
- 2015, Illinois: $2,000,000 Settlement. A 63-year-old man has minimally invasive L4-L5 transforaminal lumbar fusion performed by defendant neurosurgeon. His pre-operative neurological exam is normal. However, after the procedure, he wakes up with cauda equina syndrome and is unable to 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 specialists. 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 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 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 hospital often defend these cases arguing diagnosing the patient’s early would have made no different. 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.
- 2013, New York. A 27-year-old female goes to defendant NYU Hospitals, where she alleges 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.