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Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;30(6):577-9.

An unusual presentation of epidural Acinetobacter infection.

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  • 1Anaesthetic Department, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Kent, United Kingdom.



We report a case of spinal-cord compression caused by epidural fat infection with Acinetobacter. The initial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan suggested epidural hematoma or abscess, although both were absent at surgery.


A 60-year-old man had a thoracic epidural sited at the level of T8/9 for postoperative analgesia after major abdominal surgery. A mixture of bupivacaine 0.1% and fentanyl 2 microg/mL was infused at a rate of 10 mL/h for 48 hours postoperatively. The epidural catheter was then removed, but 24 hours later, the patient still had weakness and numbness in his lower limbs. An MRI scan showed cord compression secondary to a hematoma or abscess from the level of T6 to T11. At laminectomy, no hematoma or abscess was found, but edematous epidural fat was excised. This fat was sent for culture and Acinetobacter was grown. Appropriate antibiotic therapy was given. Over a period of 12 months, the patient has regained near-normal power and sensation.


Epidural Acinetobacter infection may present atypically without signs of meningism. MRI imaging may be confusing in these infections and lead to incorrect radiological diagnoses. Spinal-cord compression, as a complication of epidural catheter placement, does not have to be caused by hematoma or abscess.

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