Intracranial suppuration: a modern decade of postoperative subdural empyema and epidural abscess

Neurosurgery. 1994 Jun;34(6):974-80; discussion 980-1. doi: 10.1227/00006123-199406000-00004.


A retrospective study of subdural empyema and epidural abscess spanning 11 years and encompassing 41 patients was performed, demonstrating that the clinical characteristics of intracranial suppuration have changed over time. Sinusitis and otitis media, previously the predominant etiologies, were predisposing factors in only 29% of patients. A prior craniotomy had been performed in 66% of cases and was the most common risk factor for abscess development. The postoperative patients were subjected to detailed analysis. Patients who had undergone a prior craniotomy were notable for the following features: older age, lack of fever, evidence of wound infection, frequent false-negative computed tomographic scans, and a high percentage of Gram negative aerobic organisms or skin flora as pathogens. The population at highest risk for abscess development ranged from 50 to 60 years old, older than in previous series. Older age and an advanced degree of encephalopathy were indicative of a poor prognosis. Patients with subdural empyema had a worse prognosis as well. Hyponatremia was a frequent complicating factor. A much greater percentage of Gram-negative aerobic bacteria were isolated than in previous studies. Computed tomographic scans, half of which were performed with intravenous contrast material, were nondiagnostic in 30% of patients. The mortality rate was 18.5%, and delay in treatment correlated with increased risk of poor outcome. All patients were treated with a craniotomy. Repeated operations were required in three patients and were associated with the development of intraparenchymal abscess.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Brain Abscess / diagnosis*
  • Brain Abscess / etiology
  • Brain Abscess / mortality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniotomy
  • Empyema, Subdural / diagnosis*
  • Empyema, Subdural / etiology
  • Empyema, Subdural / mortality
  • Epidural Space
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis
  • Opportunistic Infections / etiology
  • Opportunistic Infections / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Infection / diagnosis
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / mortality
  • Survival Rate