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Epidural Abscesses

Epidural Abscesses

Epidural abscesses are rare infections that can occur in the brain and skull, but most often develop in the spine. This type of infection occurs in the tissue – also called the dura – that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots. An epidural abscess is an extremely serious condition that can potentially produce debilitating symptoms, and must be treated immediately to prevent severe side effects.

Causes and Symptoms

Epidural abscesses are usually caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus. It can also be caused by fungus, other infections in the body, or germs that travel through the blood. Many patients, however, do not display a source of the infection. Spinal epidural abscesses can develop in individuals with:

  • A history of invasive spinal procedures or open back surgery
  • Infections of the bloodstream
  • Bone infections in the spine
  • Boils

A spinal epidural abscess can place pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, which can result in a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty moving certain body parts
  • Loss of sensation in certain body parts
  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • And more


If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or conditions, speak with your doctor immediately – especially if you’ve had back surgery in the past. A CT scan or MRI can help determine if spinal epidural abscesses are the root cause of your symptoms. If so, treatment options can include antibiotics, and most often involves surgery to drain or remove the abscess, as well as to relieve pressure it is placing on the spinal cord or spinal verves.

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