New York City Attorneys for Failure to Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome


Chances are you or someone you know has experienced or is currently experiencing, some form of back pain, a condition that can become worse over time if not treated correctly or addressed quickly enough. What happens when a visit to the doctor for progressive back pain turns into a sudden trip to the emergency room because your doctor failed earlier to diagnose a condition that has now advanced into something more serious? Failure to diagnose means that a health care professional has fallen below the standard of what is acceptable care. Victims who find themselves on the short end of the stick for a failure to diagnose case are left with years of suffering—often for the remainder of their lives.

In reality, failure to diagnose means that advanced stages of a condition were overlooked, such as when advanced cancer is “suddenly” discovered, or a patient is sent home complaining of chest pains and dismissed with a diagnosis of indigestion when a more serious condition exists. With a condition such as Cauda Equina Syndrome—if not diagnosed quickly enough—the aftermath can leave the victim with a lifetime of paralysis and lack of control over other bodily functions. How can conditions for which we visit our doctor be overlooked? As trusting patients, we ask ourselves how our primary care physicians can dismiss a symptom as important as severe back pain. Sadly, many physicians are gravely uninformed when it comes to Cauda Equina Syndrome.

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Cauda Equina Syndrome may sound like a foreign term, yet many experience this type of pain over time, often leaving the person unable to work, or function normally due to its debilitating effects. A Latin term for “horse’s tail,” Cauda Equina Syndrome’s name identifies the appearance of the bundle of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord, said to resemble a horse’s tail. This syndrome arises when the nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord are compressed from disease or trauma. When the compression becomes so severe, the body says, “enough is enough” and the lower body becomes paralyzed with the victim losing permanent functions in the legs, feet and bowels. The progression of Cauda Equina Syndrome eventually causes the nervous system to quit working altogether throughout the entire body. If diagnosed quickly and correctly, treatment can be effective. However, failing to diagnose the symptoms accurately or quickly enough can lead to a medical mistake that causes stress and suffering to the victims and family. By the time lab tests are done, the window of opportunity for any real, effective treatments, has closed.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome

Any number of factors can lead someone to visit the doctor’s office or the emergency room for Cauda Equina Syndrome, ranging from events that happened many years ago that are suddenly exacerbating, to those triggered by sudden trauma. Some factors include disc herniation, gunshot wounds, tumors, inflammatory conditions, infections or fractures and trauma to the spine.

Cauda Equina Syndrome most frequently ends up with a trip to the emergency room, a stressful situation at any given time and, once validated, should lead to surgery within 48 hours. If you or someone you know visited the emergency room with the following symptoms, and you feel your needs were not addressed—particularly if you are still experiencing severe back pain—it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina particularly include:

  • Bladder impairment or loss of bladder control
  • Severe numbness and pain in the legs, pelvic, buttocks or feet
  • Severe lower back pain (particularly aggressive in recent days leading up to the emergency room or doctor’s office visit)
  • Progressive sexual dysfunction

Experiencing any of the above should propel the physician to, at the very least, order an x-ray or MRI in order to discover the root of the pain and suffering, and then assess any further necessary steps which might be beneficial.

If you or someone you know suspects a lack of medical care in failing to diagnose progressing severe back pain, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be in the future from the physician’s inability to perform the standard of care that was required. Gathering the facts and records is a difficult process, and investigation will rely on expert testimony to determine whether the condition was overlooked in the past and whether it was mistreated recently during visits to the emergency room or doctor’s office. Finding these expert witnesses is best done in the hands of a reputable law firm that can obtain evidence and testimony quickly. Some of the issues and questions that will arise in a failure to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome case include the following:

  • Was treatment delayed?
  • Was the condition treated as though it was another condition due to lack of attention to necessary testing?
  • Did the physician fail to follow up and read charts from previous visits?
  • Were symptoms showing up earlier, and dismissed as being “nothing,” or treated incorrectly?
  • Was your doctor informed on the intricacies of Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Unfortunately, not treating Cauda Equina Syndrome can lead to permanent disability which can cost the victim and family years and years of financial distress, job loss, medical expense, and often long term in-home care. Humiliation and regression take over the mind and body of the victim who continues to suffer from paralysis, incontinence, and lack of other bodily functions—all sad realities for those involved on any level.

At Finz & Finz, P.C., our team of attorneys is renowned for their experience in settlements related to medical malpractice and failure to diagnose. Without any obligation, we invite you to fill out and submit our Free Failure to Diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome Case Evaluation form, or contact us toll-free at (855) TOP-FIRM to further discuss your situation. The firm also handles all type of medical malpractice cases including the following conditions:

  • Birth defects
  • Strokes
  • Liver cancer
  • Cervical or vaginal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Osteoporosis

Our medical malpractice team can help you achieve the compensation you deserve for your failure to diagnose Cauda Equina Syndrome case.