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Medical conference aims to raise awareness of cauda equina syndrome

28th January 2014

Health professionals are invited to attend a medical conference which will focus on raising awareness of a less well-known condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES).

The conference has been organised by Cauda Equina Syndrome UK Charity in association with Moore Blatch and Moosa-Duke solicitors and aims to provide detailed information of CES, which is a medical condition that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment to prevent long-term complications for patients.

CES is a serious neurological condition which occurs when the nerves at the base of the spinal cord become compressed. It is a debilitating condition which can affect anyone and being aware of the red flag symptoms can help prevent late or missed diagnosis of the condition.

This is the first conference by the charity and is being held on Monday 10th February at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. The seminar is aimed at educating members of the medical profession and is also open to anyone wanting to learn more.

Having seen a rise in Cauda Equina cases, Moore Blatch clinical negligence specialist, Maya Sushila comments: “If recognised early this is a very treatable condition – unfortunately the patients that we see have often had a delay in treatment, because the seriousness of the situation has not been realised and they are now wheelchair bound. Quite rightly they want to challenge the medical advice they have received and seek compensation so that they can manage their health consequences, which in many cases can be severe. Anyone can suffer from Cauda Equina so it’s incredibly important that more of us are aware of it.” 

The Cauda Equina Syndrome UK Charity is run by a number of sufferers of CES, they say that without prompt medical treatment an individual’s life can be irrevocably changed, leaving them to deal with bladder and bowel dysfunction, reduced sensation in the saddle area as well as other complications.

Emma Willis, who currently works for the charity as their Marketing and Events Manager is someone who was fortunate enough to be diagnosed and treated quickly, she is sharing her story to encourage people to learn more about the condition.

 In June 2011, Emma was asked to move her car by a paramedic so that her next door neighbour could be taken to hospital on a stretcher. She was completely unaware that moments later she would also need urgent medical assistance.

Responding to the paramedic’s request, Emma turned to pick up her keys and moved her dog, so it didn’t escape from the house. But as she did this, she unexpectedly dropped to the floor and began to suffer indescribable pain – the paramedic who was there to help Emma’s neighbour, tried to relieve her pain whilst also calling for another ambulance.

She comments: “I was incredibly lucky that the paramedic was there, I would have struggled to get the help I needed and it’s a good job that an ambulance was called, as I later found out that I needed emergency surgery.”

On arriving at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Emma underwent a medical examination and explained that she had been suffering from two slipped discs. An MRI scan was performed and it was confirmed that Emma’s nerves in her lower back had become compressed and she was advised that she should have surgery straightaway.

After surgery, Emma was relieved to find that the pain she had been suffering had disappeared, but experienced some numbness and her bladder began retaining. Emma would feel the urge to go to the toilet but nothing would happen, she was catheterised for the operation and was told that she may have to continue like this for some time.

Four days later, Emma had still not been to the toilet and left hospital with an indwelling catheter, being reassured that with time her symptoms would rectify themselves.

At first Emma continued to experience numbness and had trouble walking without the aid of a stick, but gradually some sensation in her lower body did begin to come back. Unfortunately, this did not include her bladder, which was still not working normally and so she was referred to a spinal injuries unit to try and help her.

At the spinal injuries unit Emma was told that she was suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome and she was shown how to catheterise, but rather remarkably after her visit her bowel began to work the majority of the time.

She says: “Up until this point I had never heard of Cauda Equina and didn’t really know the full implications of my illness.

“About three months after my first surgery, I was actually making really good progress; I was doing physiotherapy, I’d started going back to Pilates and my strength was coming back. I’d also got used to using a catheter.”

But unfortunately Emma started to experience sciatica in her leg again and became convinced that these symptoms weren’t the norm.  Emma’s consultant decided to complete another MRI scan, which showed that there was still some compression on the nerves in her lower back and that the disc had come out again causing Emma’s pain and symptoms – she was advised that she needed surgery again.

Two weeks after Emma’s second surgery, her bladder started to work and slowly over the next six to 12 months Emma stopped having to catheterise, her pain reduced and more sensation began to come back.

The experience has completely changed Emma’s life – she says: “I had a close call really, it’s given me a new outlook and I don’t take things for granted anymore. Whilst I still suffer from some symptoms, my story is actually a positive one, being treated within twenty four hours gave me a good outcome, but so many people are not this fortunate.

“I was also really lucky that I had seen a consultant about my back who had advised me to look out for symptoms such as numbness around my bottom and legs, as well as any bladder and bowel problems. He told me that if they should occur, I would need urgent medical treatment and shouldn’t hesitate to get it. Ironically I had telephoned him that morning, just before the ambulance arrived to help my next door neighbour. Without his advice, I may have dismissed my symptoms and not realised how fast I needed to act.”

For anyone wanting more information about Cauda Equina Syndrome or looking to attend the conference please visit –

Author: Maya Sushila

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