Adult spinal epidural abscess: clinical features and prognostic factors

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2002 Sep;104(4):306-10. doi: 10.1016/s0303-8467(02)00020-3.


Twenty-nine adult patients with spinal epidural abscess (SEA), aged 31-73 years, have been identified over a period of 8 years. The 29 SEA patients included 21 men and eight women with a mean age of 54 years. Initial diagnosis of SEA was made in only 17% of our patients and another 48% of patients were initially suggested of having infection or mass of the spine. Spinal pain and fever were the two most common clinical features shared among our patients. The two most common pathogens were Staphylococcus aureus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which were found in 62% of patients. Twenty-seven patients received surgical intervention and antibiotic treatment for SEAs, one of which succumbed to meningitis. Two patients without neurological abnormalities received conservative treatment alone and survived. The number of patients, which showed improvement of symptoms, included all seven patients with neck/back pain without neurologic deficits, all 15 patients with paraparesis, 10 of 13 patients with bladder/bowel dysfunction with or without motor deficits, and none of the five with plegia. Preoperative plegia was identified as a poor prognostic factor, and patients with SEA continue to show high rates of morbidity and mortality. Thus, in order to improve the therapeutic outcome of patients with SEA, early diagnosis and management are mandatory to treat the patients before the deterioration of neurologic deficit occurs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epidural Abscess / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Paraparesis / etiology
  • Paraparesis / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staphylococcal Infections / complications*
  • Tuberculosis / complications*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents