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Neurosurg Focus. 2004 Dec 15;17(6):E12.

Spinal epidural abscess: appearance on magnetic resonance imaging as a guide to surgical management. Report of five cases.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery and Spinal Injuries Unit, Royal North Shore Hospital, St. Leonards, Australia.


Spinal epidural abscess is associated with considerable rates of morbidity and mortality despite its infrequent occurrence. Advances in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging technology have allowed easier diagnosis of this potentially devastating condition. It is also possible to predict the intraoperative appearance of each case of spinal epidural abscess prior to the procedure, based on the MR findings. Surgical treatment of this condition usually involves extensive decompressive laminectomy, which predisposes patients to spinal instability and deformity. Recent advances in surgical approaches to spinal epidural abscess have included the institution of less invasive techniques to manage this condition, including saline washes of the epidural space through catheters introduced via limited laminotomy. The cases reported here illustrate the ability to predict the intraoperative findings in patients with spinal epidural abscess, and to adjust the surgical approach accordingly to minimize the extent of potentially destabilizing procedures without impinging on the effectiveness of treatment.

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