Spontaneous spinal epidural hematoma: a case report and literature review

J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;42(2):e31-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.08.008. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Background: Spontaneous spinal epidural hematoma (SSEH) is a rare cause of spinal cord compression that requires emergency investigation and treatment. Prompt diagnosis is essential to prevent morbidity and mortality.

Objectives: Our goal was to report a case of SSEH, and to review the literature on the topic, looking particularly at the factors influencing post-operative outcome, and the symptoms and signs that would lead one to consider this rare diagnosis.

Case report: A 36-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department with paraplegia and a sensory level at T4. There was no history of trauma and he was not taking any medications. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a large non-enhancing posterior epidural mass lesion between C7 and upper T4, causing severe cord compression at T1-T3. Post contrast scans revealed no rim enhancement. Blood investigations were unremarkable, with an international normalized ratio of 1.1. He underwent urgent decompression laminectomy within 12 h of symptom onset. Intraoperatively, thick clotted blood and prominent epidural vessels were seen. Histology revealed engorged vessels with hemorrhage and clot in the extravascular tissues. Post-operatively, the impaired neurological status remained unchanged.

Conclusion: SSEH is a rare cause of spinal cord compression that requires prompt diagnosis and surgical intervention to prevent morbidity. Neurological outcome after surgical decompression depends on the severity of preoperative neurological deficits as well as the time between symptom onset and surgery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Spinal / complications*
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Spinal / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Paraplegia / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology*