Cervical actinomycosis causing spinal cord compression and multisegmental root failure: case report and review of the literature

Neurosurgery. 1998 Oct;43(4):937-40. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199810000-00118.


Objective and importance: Epidural invasion and the resulting cord compression are clinical entities not usually associated with actinomycosis, and we found only 11 reported cases of cord compression caused by Actinomyces infection in the literature. Only one reported case was described as actinomycosis with epidural granuloma (14, 16), whereas in the other cases, epidural macroabscess (phlegm) formation caused the symptoms. Histopathological demonstration of the inflammatory granulation tissue and gram-positive sulfur-containing filamentous bacteria are important for the diagnosis of actinomycosis, because the clinical and microbiological studies cannot always demonstrate the causative microorganism and primary infection source.

Clinical presentation: In this article, a case of Actinomyces infection causing cervical cord compression is presented. Precise diagnosis was accomplished using specific histopathological studies of the surgical specimens; such a precise diagnosis cannot always be achieved using preoperative investigations and microbiological studies. The treatment modalities and the patient's outcome are also discussed.

Conclusion: As shown by hematoxylin and eosin stain, in contrast to the Nocardia species, Actinomyces filaments histopathologically are basophilic in nature and terminate in eosinophilic clubs as a predictive feature. The clinical and radiological findings closely resemble metastatic tumors and other infectious processes. A differential diagnosis is also emphasized in this article, along with a review of the literature.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial / complications*
  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial / pathology
  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial / surgery
  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epidural Space / pathology
  • Epidural Space / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / etiology*
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / pathology
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology*
  • Spinal Cord Compression / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / surgery
  • Spinal Nerve Roots* / pathology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots* / surgery