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Cauda Equina Syndrome and car accidents: A silent threat

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2023 | Car Accidents

Car accidents are traumatic events that can leave victims with a wide range of injuries, but some of those injuries can be more readily apparent than others. 

While broken bones and other obvious injuries will need (and get) immediate attention, it’s possible that a serious threat to your health and future can actually go unnoticed in the aftermath of a crash – for a while. It’s called Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES).

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

The “cauda equina” is a nerve bundle at the base of your spine. CES occurs when those nerves become compressed, usually due to some kind of injury. The syndrome can be overlooked, at first, until swelling in the area increases the pressure on the nerves and produces clear symptoms. 

Once symptoms emerge, victims of CES typically need surgery within 24-48 hours to prevent paralysis (and surgery may or may not work). That makes it critically important to be on the watch for any of the following symptoms after a crash:

  • Urinary retention: This is often the first noticeable symptom and the most common. Any decrease in the sensation that tells you that it’s time to urinate is a major cause for concern.
  • Numbness: CES gets its name from this symptom because the numbness affects the parts of your body that would typically be the area of your body that would fit in a saddle. If your genital area, buttocks and the inside of your thighs have numbness, you need to seek medical care.
  • Weakness and pain: Pain in the back or legs that feels like sciatica and numbness or weakness in your lower body need immediate attention.
  • Incontinence: As the condition progresses, you may be unable to control your bowels or bladder. That’s a sign that the compression is severe.

The prognosis for individuals with CES varies based on the severity of nerve damage and the promptness of treatment. While some victims may experience substantial improvement with early intervention, there can be long-term complications, including paralysis, sexual dysfunction and an overall loss of sensation. 

If you have suffered a serious injury in a wreck, protect your legal interests.