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Spinal Cord Abscess


This condition is characterized by inflammation and collection of infected material or pus between the spinal cord and the spine(epidural). Spinal cord abscess is very rare; a spinal abscess usually occurs as spinal epidural abscess. There is formation of pus, which is a collection of fluid, destroyed tissue cells, white blood cells, and live and dead microorganisms. The pus becomes encapsulated (enclosed) by a lining or membrane that forms around the edges. The pus collection (abscess) causes pressure on the spinal cord. The infection may cause inflammation and swelling, which also compresses the spinal cord.

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A spinal cord abscess is caused when infection occurs within the internal areas of the spine. The infection is usually bacterial, caused by staphylococcus infection that spreads through the bones and membranes of the spine. The infection can also be fungal or viral, though rarely. Tuberculosis is also a cause of spinal cord abscess. The condition may lead to boils (furuncles) on the skin, particularly on the back or scalp. Abscess may also result from the spread of any infection through the bloodstream from another body location (bacteremia). Back injuries or trauma, including minor injuries can cause spinal cord abscess. Occasionally, spinal cord abscess may be a complication of lumbar puncture (spinal tap) or surgery on the back.The initial infection often begins in the bone (osteomyelitis), which may trigger formation of an epidural abscess which enlarges and rapidly compresses the spinal cord. This causes symptoms similar to those caused by exterior sources of spinal cord trauma.The disorder is rare but may be life threatening.

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Signs & Symptoms

The following symptoms may be seen:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Loss of movement of an area of the body
  • Loss of sensation of an area of the body
  • Low backache, often mild but slowly gets worse
               Pain typically moves to the hip, leg, or feet
               Pain may spread to the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Male impotence
  • Nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that suddenly get worse
  • Numbness in a specific, limited area (localized)
  • Severe back pain
  • Weakness or paralysis
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Thorough treatment of chronic infections such as boils, tuberculosis, and other infections, decreases the risk of spinal cord abscess. People with endocarditis or congenital heart disorders may be advised to receive prophylactic (preventive) treatment with antibiotics prior to dental or oral (by mouth) procedures.

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Laminectomy Modern Medicine

The goals of treatment are to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and cure the infection.
Immediate surgery is required to relieve the pressure. The surgery called laminectomy, involves draining the abscess.

Medicines and Corticosteroids Modern Medicine

Medicines are prescribed to get rid of the infection. This may include a combination of antibiotics.
Corticosteroids may occasionally be prescribed to reduce swelling and pressure on the spinal cord.

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