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Lancet Neurol. 2009 Mar;8(3):292-300. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(09)70044-4.

Epidural abscesses of the CNS.

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Department of Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Epidural abcessess can involve the intercranial or spinal compartments and can result in potentially devastating neurological injuries. Although rare, incidence of spinal epidural abscesses (SEAs) is increasing as predisposing factors such as injected-drug use, chronic immunosuppression, and spinal surgery become more common. Whereas symptoms of SEAs can include fever, back pain, and neurological dysfunction, the presentation of intracranial epidural abscesses (ICEAs) is less well defined. Neuroimaging narrows the potential diagnoses and enables prompt empirical therapy until specific microbiological diagnosis is made. Surgical intervention is an integral part of treatment for epidural abscesses in patients with neurological symptoms or who have not responded to medical management. Prognosis for both SEAs and ICEAs is typically poor because of delayed diagnosis and intervention and is dependent on the neurological status at the time of diagnosis. Increased clinical awareness can greatly improve outcomes by helping to diagnose patients earlier.

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