Spinal epidural abscess: a ten-year perspective

Neurosurgery. 1990 Aug;27(2):177-84.


A retrospective study of spinal epidural abscess spanning 10 years and encompassing 40 patients was done. Epidemiology, clinical features, laboratory findings, radiographic imaging, therapy, and outcome were examined and compared with previous series. An increasing incidence of the disease (up to 1.96 patients per 10,000 admissions per year) and an older, more debilitated population (67% having factors predisposing them to infection) were discovered. Over half of the population was studied with magnetic resonance imaging, which was found to be equally as sensitive (91%) as myelography with computed tomography (92%). Magnetic resonance imaging offers the advantages of being noninvasive and able to delineate other entities, which makes it the imaging modality of choice. Preoperative paralysis and neurological deterioration from normal were identified as poor prognostic features. Of 7 patients with preoperative paralysis, 5 died, and the rest failed to recover neurological function. Eleven patients with initially normal neurological exams deteriorated in the hospital before surgical intervention. Eight of these patients were being treated with appropriate antibiotics; 2 became paralyzed despite more than 3 weeks of antibiotic therapy. Only 3 of these 11 patients recovered fully. Immediate surgical decompression combined with antibiotics remains the treatment of choice.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess* / diagnostic imaging
  • Abscess* / epidemiology
  • Abscess* / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epidural Space
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Spinal Diseases* / mortality