Acute nontraumatic spinal epidural hematomas. An important differential diagnosis in spinal emergencies

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1998 Aug 15;23(16):1810-3. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199808150-00018.


Study design: The clinical data of five patients with spontaneous spinal epidural hematoma (SSEH) were reviewed.

Objectives: To assess the clinical outcome of patients with SSEH after surgical decompression.

Summary of background data: The outcome in SSEH is essentially determined by the timing of the operation. Therefore, early and precise diagnosis is necessary.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of five patients with SSEH was performed. The clinical data were stratified according to the Frankel Score. Special interest was given to the relevance of rapid and exact diagnosis and immediate therapeutic intervention.

Results: Diagnosis of SSEH was established preoperatively by means of computed tomography (one case) or magnetic resonance imaging (three patients) and intraoperatively in one case. Lumbar myelography had been false negative in one patient, computed tomography false-negative in two patients. Surgical decompression was performed in four patients within 24 hours after the onset of symptoms. Favorable postoperative functional results were found only in one patient whose symptoms had been present for less than 12 hours and in the case of an incomplete cauda equina syndrome.

Conclusions: The results of the current series demonstrate both the superiority of magnetic resonance imaging for diagnosis of SSEH as well as the necessity of early decompressive surgery in cases of sensorimotor paralysis after SSEH.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Laminectomy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Compression / diagnosis*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome