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Don’t be deterred: The importance of seeking necessary medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted on May 18th 2020

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Since the beginning of lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals have witnessed a huge decrease in people attending A&E for emergency care.

Although the government guidance throughout the last couple of months has been to stay at home, one of the most vital exceptions to that rule is for seeking medical treatment.

Healthcare workers are concerned that less and less people are using the emergency services due to fear of coming into contact with coronavirus at hospital. This will likely result in avoidable fatalities or preventable long-term complications.

With some medical conditions, time is of the essence and delaying treatment can cause a worse long-term outcome for patients. These include, for example, well known medical emergencies including strokes, heart attacks, serious injuries and complications during pregnancy. This also extends to undergoing screening and scans.

It is important that people spot the signs of a possible medical emergency and contact healthcare workers for advice as soon as possible. Patients who need urgent care should not be deterred from seeking the help that they need.

Cauda Equina Syndrome: The widely unknown medical emergency

Strokes, heart attacks and serious injuries are well-known medical emergencies, but some conditions are less well-known and are still cause for equivalent and immediate concern.

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a rare but very serious medical condition in which the nerves at the bottom of the spine become severely compressed, causing disruption to sensory and motor functions in the lower body.

This little-known condition is a medical emergency as urgent surgery is required to decompress the nerves. Time is truly of the essence, as generally, the post-surgical prognosis depends on how fast treatment is given.

Symptoms and Signs: Spot the red flags

It is important to note the following red flag symptoms for CES, in which people are urged to seek emergency medical attention:-

·         Severe lower back pain, sometimes extending to the buttocks or legs;

·         Muscle weakness, predominantly in the legs;

·         Difficulty or loss of control when going to the toilet, with either passing urine, opening the bowels or both;

·         Numbness or pins and needles around the saddle area – i.e. genitals, anus, buttocks and legs.

The symptoms of CES usually come about very quickly, which is why it is so important to seek medical attention, especially if a combination of the red flag symptoms above occur.

In terms of its causes, CES is usually due to a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. However, CES has been seen to also be caused by tumours, infections, physical trauma to the area – or even in a very rare case – something as simple as a sneeze.

Diagnosis and Treatment: Time is of the essence

On arrival at hospital with the above symptoms, a full history should be taken, including symptoms, the timeline of how and when symptoms occurred and any relevant past medical history. A physical examination should be performed, including assessments of pain, strength, sensation and mobility.

Radiological testing (for example using an MRI or CT scan) is usually used to identify the presence of CES. However, it is vital to carry out a scan by way of urgency when CES is suspected, as more damage may be done if scans are carried out at a future appointment.

Once diagnosed, emergency spinal surgery to decompress the nerves is essential and time really is of the essence in order to decrease the risk of future lifelong complications.

Recovery and Prognosis: A wide range of outcomes

The recovery and prognosis after suffering from CES really is mostly dependent on how quickly treatment was carried out.

A delay in diagnosing and treating CES can result in devastating lifelong symptoms of pain, paralysis and impaired bladder, bowel and sexual function. A delay can therefore mean that a sufferer may sadly require lifelong care and assistance.

This is why it is so important that people seek the healthcare advice and treatment they need and are not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic from getting the access to healthcare that they would, in normal circumstances, not hesitate to use.

Don’t be deterred

Recent figures show that more people than ever are dying at home from non-coronavirus related illnesses. It is thought that many of these deaths could have been avoided had some of those patients sought the healthcare help they needed.

Delays in diagnosing many conditions can lead to devastating life-long complications which can sometimes be avoided.

How can we help?

Our Clinical Negligence Team at Oliver & Co have vast experience in dealing with delayed diagnosis claims, including for clients who have sadly suffered with long-term complications from cauda equina syndrome. Click here to read more about the type of claims we deal with and how we could help you.

Our team is headed by a dual-qualified doctor and solicitor, so we benefit from in-house medical knowledge from the outset of a claim.

Our experienced team has developed brilliant working relationships with medical experts in many different fields who are approachable and reliable in assisting us with cauda equina compensation claims which to help us to get great expert advice for our clients.

We offer free and confidential initial advice. If you have an enquiry and would like to speak to a member of our team, please do not hesitate to call on 01244 354 688 or email us at law@oliverandco.co.uk.

Call and speak to a member of our team on 01244 312306