Epidural abscesses

An epidural abscess is a collection of pus (infected material). It is an uncommon infection that is usually found in the spine, but can appear in the skull or brain in some cases. It is called a spinal epidural abscess if it is found in the spine area. This infection appears in the dura, or tissue, that is found surrounding the nerve roots and spinal cord. An epidural abscess can be potentially debilitating, and is an extremely dangerous and serious condition; the abscess causes swelling in the area that could lead to fatal consequences. To prevent serious side effects and symptoms, an epidural abscess must be treated immediately.

Causes and symptoms

Generally, a bacterium causes the epidural abscesses to form. The most common bacterium causing this condition is called staphylococcus aureus. However, other infections, germs in the blood or fungus can also cause the condition to develop. The danger in an epidural abscess is that many patients do not display a visible source of the infection. The most common cases of epidural abscess develop within people containing:

  • A history of invasive spinal procedures or open back surgery
  • Bone infections in the spine
  • Boils (especially on the back and scalp)
  • Infections of the bloodstream

When an epidural abscess is found on the spine, a number of symptoms may present themselves, including:

  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Lack of bodily movement
  • Loss of sensation or feeling
  • Paralysis
  • Weakness

Treatment and prevention

Epidural abscesses are very serious conditions, so if you have experienced any of these symptoms, speak with your physician immediately. Talk to your doctor about getting an MRI or CT scan, as these can generally detect an epidural abscess. Once you have your diagnosis, a physician may recommend surgery or antibiotic-based therapy. These treatments should begin immediately following a diagnosis.

To help prevent epidural abscesses from occurring following open back surgery, consider Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive alternative. Our innovative, outpatient procedures utilize small incisions that result in lower infection and complication rates compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact us to learn more about how our procedures can possibly treat your degenerative spine condition.