Cauda Equina Syndrome

Lower back pain is a really common cause for patients to present to primary care, urgent care and emergency care. Thankfully many of these cases are self limiting, but somewhere in the region of 1:300 patients with back pain in the ED will have Cauda Equina Syndrome. Cauda Equina Syndrome is something that is challenging for all clinicians because many patients with simple lower back pain may have many similar symptoms,  but if we miss it, or if there is a delay to surgery that can lead to potentially avoidable long-term disability for our patients and on top of that its a major cause of healthcare litigation. And we’re not talking about a delay in weeks being a problem here, we’re talking about hours to days, with big  potential complications like impaired bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction or lower limb paralysis – so you can see why litigation is a big part of some missed cases. In this episode we run through the the signs, symptoms, investigations and treatment with a strong reference back to the underlying anatomy and disruption. We also cover the recently published national Cauda Equina Pathway, which is a great resource but poses some real challenges in it’s implementation! Once again we’d love to hear any thoughts or feedback either on the website or via X @TheResusRoom! Simon, Rob & James

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Get It Right First Time National Cauda Equina Pathway

RCEM position statement 2024; Cauda Equina Syndrome

Diagnosis of caudal equina in the emergency department. Metcalfe. EMJ. 2023

What is the diagnostic accuracy of red flags related to cauda equina syndrome (CES). When compared to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)? A systematic review. Dionne. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. 2019

BASS; Cauda Equina Syndrome Surgical Options

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