Epidural abscess

Alternative Names

Abscess – epidural; Spinal abscess

Definition of Epidural abscess

An epidural abscess is a collection of pus (infected material) between the outer covering of the brain and spinal cord and the bones of the skull or spine. The abscess causes swelling in the area.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Epidural abscess is a rare disorder caused by infection in the area between the bones of the skull or spine, and the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). This infection is called an intracranial epidural abscess if it is inside the skull area, or a spinal epidural abscess if it is found in the spine area. Most are located in the spine.

Symptoms

Spinal epidural abscess:

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform an exam to look for a loss of functions such as movement or sensation.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection and reduce the risk of permanent damage. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and surgery. In rare cases, antibiotics alone are used.

Expectations (prognosis)

Early diagnosis and treatment greatly improve the chance of a good outcome. Once weakness, , or sensation changes occur, the chances of recovering lost function are reduced. Permanent nervous system damage or death may occur.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/15/2010

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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