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Review and case report demonstrate that spontaneous spinal epidural abscesses are rare but dangerous in childhood.

Acta Paediatrica 2019 January
AIM: A spinal epidural abscess (SEA) is a rare paediatric bacterial infection, with possible devastating neurological sequelae. We explored localisation in the cervical segment, which is unusual, but more dangerous, than other SEAs.

METHODS: We describe 22 cases (12 male) of paediatric SEAs without risk factors: 21 from a literature search from 2000 to 2017 and a 30-month-old boy with a spontaneous cervical SEA due to Group A Streptococcus.

RESULTS: The average age was eight years and the symptoms were mainly fever, back pain and motor deficit, with an aetiological diagnosis in 68%. Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus was isolated in six patients, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in two, Staphylococcus aureus with unknown susceptibility patterns in three and Group A Streptococcus in four. All patients underwent gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging and most abscesses were localised in the thoracic and lumbar areas. More than half (59%) underwent surgery to remove pus and granulation tissue and nine were just treated with antimicrobial therapy for an average of 5.3 weeks. Most patients had good outcomes.

CONCLUSION: SEAs were underestimated in children due to the rarity and spectrum of differential diagnoses. Timely diagnosis, immediate antibiotics, spinal magnetic resonance imaging and prompt neurosurgical consultations were essential for favourable outcomes.

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