Epidural abscesses — causes, symptoms and treatment

An epidural abscess is a collection of pus, or infected material, in the epidural space of the spine or brain. 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 bacteria 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 due to the following circumstances:

  • Invasive spinal procedures such as traditional open back surgery
  • Bone infections in the spine
  • Boils, especially on the back and scalp
  • Infections of the bloodstream

When an epidural abscess occurs the spine, a number of symptoms can develop, including:

  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Mobility problems
  • Loss of sensation or feeling
  • Muscle weakness

Treatment and prevention

An epidural abscess is a very serious condition so if you have experienced any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately. He or she will typically order diagnostic imagery, such as an MRI or CT scan, to detect an epidural abscess. Once a diagnosis is reached, a doctor may recommend surgery or antibiotic-based therapy.

Although we do not treat epidural abscesses with our procedures, patients with degenerative spine conditions looking to lower their risk of infection related to traditional open spine surgery should consider the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.^ Contact us today to learn more about how our procedures can potentially treat your degenerative spine condition if you have exhausted conservative treatments.

We offer a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.