Cauda Equina Syndrome: A Failure to Diagnose (Claims Corner CME)


Failures of systems often prevent physicians from making timely diagnoses. Failures may result when patient assessments are incomplete, having a narrow diagnostic focus, or diagnostic test issues. Other factors that hinder timely diagnoses include failure to appreciate signs and symptoms, lack of consults, and failure to respond to repeated patient concerns/symptoms. At times, communication between providers will hinder a timely diagnosis. Telephone requests from the patient handled by non-licensed staff can lead to devastating outcomes. 

Course ID #: TDE 200807.0 Issue Date: 09/28/2020 Expiration Date: 09/28/2023


After completing this activity, learners will be able to:

  • Recognize the clinical challenges that often cause delay in a diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome and result in severe injury for a patient. 
  • Prioritize the importance of conducting an accurate and thorough review of chief complaints and triage documentation as well as a neurological examination on patient presentation to emergency departments.
  • Provide staff education and integrate the development of protocols for office staff in recognizing, communicating, and appropriately responding to change in patient conditions and medical emergencies. 
  • Develop at least two strategies that can reduce the risk for a malpractice claim involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat cauda equina syndrome. 


No individual in a position to control or influence the content of this activity has reported relevant financial relationships with commercial interests. No commercial support was provided for this activity.


The information and guidelines contained in this activity are generalized and may not apply to all practice situations. We recommend that legal advice be obtained from a qualified attorney for specific application to your practice. The information is intended for educational purposes and should be used as a reference guide only.

Course Developers

Susan Shepard, MSN, MA, RN, CPHRM, Senior Director, Patient Safety and Risk Management Education, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company
Angela Jordan, RN, CPHRM, Patient Safety Analyst, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company

Continuing Education Credit

The Doctors Company is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical educational activities for physicians.

The Doctors Company designates this activity for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Complies with State Requirements

Please SEE the Federation of State Medical Boards overview of Continuing Medical Education requirements by State. 

Technical Requirements

The activity is best experienced using the most current browser: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer is not a suported platform. All activities featuring audio must have a speaker. To view graphic images and references that appear in separate "pop-up" windows, JavaScript and session cookies must be enabled on your computer. Adobe Acrobat Reader may be required for certain activities.

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact or call 800.421.2368, extension 1243.


Visit our Resource document for this program.