Spinal sepsis (spinal epidural or subdural abscess) is a rare condition, which, if not diagnosed rapidly, can lead to paralysis or death. It is difficult to diagnose in its early stages as the symptoms are as yet non-specific. We aimed to identify predisposing factors and presenting symptoms that might aid in the early diagnosis of spinal sepsis. A case-control study was performed with non-pediatric patients who had been diagnosed with spinal sepsis from 1998 to 2007. Our control group comprised 80 randomly selected patients who had presented to the emergency department with back pain. We identified 72 patients with spinal sepsis. A multivariate analysis revealed that obesity (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 21.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.8-257.5) and alcoholism (aOR 6.5; 95% CI 1.3-32.8) were important predictive factors for spinal sepsis. To our knowledge, this is the first report that associates obesity and alcoholism with spinal sepsis.
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