The little-known spinal injury ‘costing the NHS millions’ – BBC News

Failure to identify and treat a little-known spinal condition probably costs the NHS hundreds of millions a year, according to a leading consultant.

Cauda equina syndrome requires surgery within hours to avoid damage to the bowel, bladder, sexual organs and legs.

And it can be triggered by the most seemingly innocuous of body movements.

The Royal College of GPs says the condition is rare but every doctor should be on alert for it because of how serious it can be.

Red flag signs, include nerve pain down both legs as well as pins and needles or numbness around the bottom and inner thighs.

Catrina Farnell, of Skipton, Yorkshire, was 23 and a talented dancer with dreams of becoming a choreographer, when it happened to her.

She was in London, for an American football game, when she bent to pick up a bag.

“Something happened to my back,” she says.

“It was excruciatingly painful. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never even heard of cauda equina syndrome, so I didn’t know there was a ticking clock above my head. I woke up a couple of hours later unable to move my legs, with numbness and pins and needles, and eventually unable to urinate.”

Now 31 and reliant on crutches and a wheelchair, Catrina’s legs, bowel, bladder and sexual organs are all severely damaged.

Her frail mother Margaret, 74, has become her carer.

Catrina says: “I want to have children and I want to meet someone to be with but it feels now that they’d be more of a carer, you know because being with me, people instinctively take on the role of looking after me.

“So, it just completely took that element of my life away.”

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