Epidural abscess

An epidural abscess is an uncommon, potentially dangerous condition defined by build-up of pus amidst the meninges and bones of the spine or skull. The meninges are the exterior covering of the brain and spinal cord. This results to swelling of the affected site.

The usual cause of an epidural abscess is an infection brought about by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

What are the types?

  • Intracranial – within the skull
  • Spinal – around the spinal cord

What are the risk factors?

The risk factors for an epidural abscess is based on whether it is an intracranial or spinal abscess.

The usual risk factors for the epidural form typically include:

  • Chronic sinusitis

    The usual cause of an epidural abscess is an infection brought about by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Head injuries
  • Boils on the scalp
  • Mastoiditis
  • Brain surgery

As for the spinal form, the risk factors include:

  • Bloodstream infections
  • Back injuries
  • Medical procedures involving the spine
  • Boils on the back
  • Intravenous drug users
  • Vertebral osteomyelitis
  • Immunodeficiency due to cancer, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption and AIDS

What are the signs?

The indications of an epidural abscess are based on the type.


  • Fever
  • Uncontrolled bowel movements
  • Back pain
  • Urinary retention or difficulty urinating
  • Loss of control over bladder movements


  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Lethargy

The neurological symptoms that might arise in both forms of epidural abscess might include weakness, difficulty moving any body part and diminished sensations in any part of the body.

Management of epidural abscess

The treatment for epidural abscess is based on the type. Generally, the treatment involves:


  • Administered intravenously
  • Typically prescribed for 4-6 weeks
  • Oftentimes, antibiotics are given for an extended period based on the seriousness of the abscess
  • In most cases, various antibiotics are used

Surgery is usually performed for the following:

  • Drainage of an abscess
  • Reducing the pressure on the brain or spinal cord
  • Prevent lasting damage to the organs to avoid further loss of function


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