Spinal epidural abscess: evaluation of factors influencing outcome

Neurosurgery. 1996 Nov;39(5):958-64. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199611000-00016.


Objective: The goal of this study was to critically evaluate the predictive efficacy of various clinical factors in spinal epidural abscess influencing outcome after surgical and/or medical treatment.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of 41 cases of spinal epidural abscess treated at Henry Ford Hospital between 1984 and 1992 was performed.

Results: Thirty patients underwent open surgery and received antibiotic therapy, and 11 patients received medical treatment alone. After a mean follow-up period of 20.9 months (range, 4-45 mo), 24 patients (58.5%) had no or minimal deficits, 9 patients (22%) had severe paresis or plegia and/or bowel/bladder dysfunction, and 8 patients (19.5%) died. Univariate analysis revealed patient age, degree of thecal sac compression, spinal location, surgical findings, and septic presentation to be significantly associated with outcome. In multiple logistic regression analysis, increasing age and degree of thecal sac compression were the only factors with significant independent association with poor outcome (P = 0.01 for both). A simple grading system (Grades 0-III) was developed, with patient age, degree of thecal sac compression, and duration of symptoms as the determining criteria. The incidence of poor outcome for patients with Grade 0 was 0%, compared to 85.7% for patients with Grade III.

Conclusion: We conclude that long-term outcome after treatment of spinal epidural abscess can be predicted with the use of the proposed grading scheme. Surgical drainage plus parenterally administered antibiotics remains the recommended treatment, although medical treatment alone can also be used for certain patients.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / complications
  • Abscess / drug therapy*
  • Abscess / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Epidural Space*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Parenteral
  • Intestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paralysis / etiology
  • Spinal Diseases / complications
  • Spinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Bladder Diseases / etiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents