Red Flags


‘Red flags’ is a term commonly used when talking about cauda equina syndrome. These are basically a set of symptoms that occur during the onset of cauda equina syndrome. When they present together they should lead a medical professional to suspect a diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome. Red flags are extremely important as early recognition can lead to correct timely diagnosis and treatment. Treatment within 24 hours will almost always lead to the patient making a near or full recovery after surgery.


Bladder disturbance occurs during the onset of CES. This pressure on the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spine usually a protruding disc or lesion is what causes the disturbance. As such it is a red flag of cauda equina syndrome. A patient might experience urgency and need to go to the toilet much more often or perhaps not manage to get there in time. There may be abnormal leakage or loss of feeling of needing to go and as the pressure gets worse the patient may be unable to urinate at all. Bladder disturbance is a very strong indicator together with sciatica and low back pain and should always be reported to your doctor. Often this important red flag is missed as patients are too embarrassed to mention it or doctors forget to ask.

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