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Spinal epidural abscess: an analysis of 24 cases.

BACKGROUND: Despite advances in neuroimaging and neurosurgical care, spinal abscess remains a challenging problem with mortality rates ranging from 4.6% to 31% in recent series.

METHODS: Between January 1986 and December 2003, 24 patients with spinal epidural abscess were treated. Seventeen were men and 7 were women at the average age of 47.5 years. Concurrent illnesses that result in immunodepression such as diabetes and infections occurred in 62% of the case patients. All patients had back pain, 16 had muscle weakness, 9 had paresthesias, and 8 had sphincteral changes. Twenty-one patients underwent surgical procedures. In 11 case patients, the abscess had a frankly purulent material, and, in 5, the epidural lesion consisted of granulation tissue; the other 5 case patients had a combination of the 2. Three patients were treated conservatively. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated in 57% of the case patients. The lumbar spine was affected in 11 patients; the cervical spine, in 3.

RESULTS: Fifteen patients recovered their normal neurological functions but 4 remained with some neurological disability. No deaths occurred in this series.

CONCLUSIONS: Immediate surgical drainage of the abscess, before the development of severe neurological deficit, combined with specific antibiotics remains the treatment of choice.

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