An epidural abscess is an infection that affects the epidural space between the spinal cord and the outer lining of the spinal column. It is a rare but serious condition that, if left untreated, can lead to spinal cord injury and paralysis. If medical negligence contributed to the development of an epidural abscess or its progression into paralysis, the victim may be eligible for financial compensation in a Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawsuit.
What Is an Epidural Abscess?
An epidural abscess is a severe type of infection. It can involve the spinal or cranial epidural space (the spinal cord or the brain). A spinal epidural abscess is a pyogenic infection, meaning it is characterized by inflammation caused by the invasion of pathogenic microorganisms or bacteria. When this type of infection forms in the spinal epidural space, it can result in a pocket of pus that builds up and causes swelling that can press against the bones and tissues that protect the spinal cord.
The symptoms of an epidural abscess often include back pain, a feeling of weakness in the legs or lower extremities, a fever, loss of bladder or bowel control, and paralysis (loss of function and feeling anywhere in the body). If a patient is promptly and properly diagnosed with a spinal epidural abscess, treatment options are available. Common treatments include antibiotics to fight the infection that caused the abscess. It may also be necessary to drain the abscess of pus with a needle or surgically remove the abscess to relieve pressure against the spinal cord.
The Connection Between an Epidural Abscesses and Paralysis
If left untreated, the underlying infection that causes an epidural abscess can continue to grow until the pocket of pus places enough pressure against the spine to cause long-term or permanent damage to the spinal cord. Related complications can include meningitis, an abscess on the spinal cord itself, an infection growing inside the spine, chronic back pain and irreversible damage to the nervous system (including paralysis).
Damage to the spinal cord or nervous system is difficult and sometimes impossible to reverse. Once the nervous system has sustained damage, it may be unable to restore its normal function. A victim may suffer permanent paralysis due to damage caused by an untreated epidural abscess. If treated promptly and correctly, however, it is often possible to cure the infection, reverse the swelling and inflammation, and prevent spinal cord damage and paralysis.
When Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice?
It is often possible to prevent paralysis caused by an epidural abscess. The key to a good outcome is to diagnose the infection early and begin treatment as soon as possible, before the infection can progress to the point of causing permanent damage to the spine or nervous system. Diagnosing a spinal epidural abscess typically requires magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, of the patient to try to spot the abscess. Blood samples may also be tested to identify the bacteria that is causing the abscess. Common culprits are Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection) and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
If a patient is misdiagnosed, not diagnosed at all or the diagnosis of an epidural abscess is delayed due to a medical practitioner’s negligence, the patient may be able to file a lawsuit for the harm suffered. A medical malpractice claim for a diagnostic error seeks to prove that the doctor or medical professional acted below the required standards of care when diagnosing a patient, and that this caused the harm in question due to a subsequent failure to treat.
In the context of epidural abscess, when a patient presents with the symptoms of back pain, fever and neurological deficits (weakness in legs, for example), the health care provider should consider the possibility of an epidural abscess and promptly order the necessary testing, including an MRI of the spine. When the failure to recognize that a patient has these three symptoms – or the failure to order the necessary testing – leads to a delay in diagnosis of epidural abscess, the patient may be a victim of medical malpractice and have a right to seek damages for his or her harm.
If you or a loved one developed an epidural abscess on the spine that led to paralysis, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, permanent disability, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Find out if you have grounds for filing a claim by contacting the Philadelphia spinal epidural abscess attorneys at Youman & Caputo for a free case review.