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Storm Keating unlikely to regain full use of leg due to cauda equina syndrome
Storm Keating, wife of Boyzone’s Ronan Keating, has recently found out that she is unlikely to ever regain full use of her right leg due to damage caused by a rare severe spinal condition - cauda equina syndrome - that developed earlier this year.
What is cauda equina syndrome?
Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a relatively rare spinal condition affecting the lower back, which can have significant long-term consequences for those affected if it is not diagnosed and treated promptly.
The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves that branches off from the bottom of the spinal cord. CES occurs when those nerves become damaged.
The most common cause is disc herniation (a ‘slipped disc’) in the lower back; other causes include trauma, surgery, spinal stenosis, inflammatory conditions and tumours.
Symptoms of CES include:
- numbness between the legs (called ‘saddle anaesthesia’)
- problems with bowel and bladder function
- sexual problems
- back pain and pain, numbness or weakness in both legs
These are known as ‘red flag symptoms’, which require urgent investigation. However, lower back pain and leg pain are often features of less serious back problems. Read more here.
“Small price to pay”
Mrs Keating remains upbeat however and says having a partially numb leg is a “small price to pay” compared to the paralysis in both legs and loss of bladder and bowel control that she may have suffered if the condition had not been detected so early.
The rare spinal stenosis cauda equina syndrome developed from a prolapsed disc in March 2021 and led to emergency surgery for the mum of two. One of the negative sides to her condition means that Mrs Keating is unable to properly pick up her four-month-old daughter Coco.
“It was really difficult as a mum, especially with Coco being so little,” she says.
“That tactileness and affection that you show, being able to hold them, even just giving her a bottle and putting her into bed – I still can’t do that, I can’t deadlift her down into the cot. It’s quite heart-breaking and I struggled with that.
“It was one of the hardest things I found, not being able to just do what I would normally do and be a mummy and hold my children.”
However, Mrs Keating hopes to be able to pick up her daughter properly very soon as her condition is improving week on week thanks to working with her spinal therapist.
“He hopes I should be able to regain 70-80% of my leg,” she says.
“I’m walking and I’m doing fantastic, I’m moving about really quite normally – this right leg’s the only thig that’s really sticking with me at the minute. It means I can’t have a normal walking gait yet and I can’t jog or run or things like that because my right leg is quite dead – there’s no real power going into it just yet.
“The issue with cauda equina syndrome is once it sets in, it’s paralysis of the legs and the ability to use your bowel and bladder,” she explains. “It gets progressively worse and worse as the paralysis sets in, so they got me in nice and quickly and were able to miraculously get me back to this amazing condition that I’m in now, which is close to normal. But the chances are that I’ll never regain full, 100% use of my right leg again.
“I’m very, very, very, very lucky. I just feel utterly grateful that I had the outcome that I did – it could have been so very different.”
"As this article suggests, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment of a developing cauda equina injury, the better. Doctors should immediately recognise “red flag” symptoms such as numbness in the saddle area, changes in bladder or bowel function or tingling/numbness in one or both legs. If such signs are investigated promptly, whatever is causing pressure on the cauda equina area of the spine can be removed and the physical deterioration halted and, hopefully, reversed.
"In the cases that we deal with, we investigate whether, absent any negligent delay, surgery would have taken place before the cauda equina injury becomes “complete”. This is described medically as “CESR” or Cauda Equina Syndrome with retention of urine.
"Once a patient can no longer feel whether they have a full bladder nor control the passing of urine, any surgery from that point onwards is much less likely to improve their outcome. Therefore, if there’s a failure to act on red flag signs such that appropriate surgery is not carried out before a patient is in painless urinary retention, then it is likely that they will have a claim in clinical negligence."
Lesley is an integral part of our Clinical Negligence department and offers over 20 years of experience in handling cases where individuals have suffered all sorts of physical and psychological harm caused by their treating doctors. Lesley specialises in birth injury, spinal injury and acquired brain injury cases, as well as having many years of experience in handling a variety of other high value and complex Clinical Negligence claims.