JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Spinal epidural abscess: early clinical outcome in patients treated medically.

Treatment of spinal epidural abscess has been based on surgical debridement. Medical treatment with antibiotics has been proposed as an alternative, but data on its efficacy are limited. The purpose of this study was to determine the early clinical outcome of medical treatment. This is a retrospective review of 52 patients with a spinal epidural abscess who were treated at our institution. Medical treatment was selected if no systemic sepsis was present and the neurologic examination was normal or stable (radiculopathy or signs of partial cord compression present for more than 72 hours before admission without deterioration). Twenty-nine patients had medical treatment and 23 patients were treated surgically. Medical treatment resulted in good or excellent early neurologic outcome in 24 of 29 patients (83%) at a median followup of 2 months. Three patients (11%) had failed medical treatment and required surgery and one patient (3%) who had severe comorbidities died. Staphylococcus aureus was the most common infectious pathogen, isolated in 28 of 36 positive cultures (78%). Medical treatment is a viable alternative to surgery for selected patients with a spinal epidural abscess. However, close clinical followup is essential and surgical decompression should be done when neurologic deterioration or development of systemic sepsis is observed.

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