Spinal epidural abscess (“SEA”) is a bacterial infection in the spinal canal which, if not promptly diagnosed and treated, can result in paralysis or even death. If you or someone you love is a victim of misdiagnosis or failure to treat spinal epidural abscess, you may be able to recover financial compensation by pursuing a medical malpractice claim. A Philadelphia spinal epidural abscess attorney can explain your legal options and help you fight for compensation.
To immediately access the resources at any point on this page, click the corresponding links below.
Why Choose Our Firm?
What Is Spinal Epidural Abscess?
Risk Factors for Spinal Epidural Abscess
Common Symptoms of Spinal Epidural Abscess
What is the Standard of Care?
Failure to Suspect Symptoms of Spinal Epidural Abscess
How Can Medical Malpractice be Involved?
Potential Damages Available
Speak to an Attorney Today
Spinal epidural abscess is a relatively rare but devastating pyogenic infection of the spine. Pyogenic means it is characterized by local inflammation of the tissues, typically caused by the multiplication of pathogenic microorganisms, that leads to the formation of an abscess and pus. Bacteria enters the epidural space, resulting in abscess formation and damage to the spinal cord due to either direct compression of the cord or interruption of the blood supply (ischemia).
Spinal cord compression or ischemia is a medical emergency which requires immediate intervention. Improper or delayed treatment of these conditions can result in permanent neurological deficits and death. SEA is most often found in the lower part of the spine – the thoracic and lumbar vertebral columns.
An important element in successfully treating spinal epidural abscess is early detection. Prompt diagnosis can lead to early treatment, increasing the patient’s odds of making a full recovery. Unfortunately, SEA diagnoses are often missed or delayed until neurological symptoms present. Identifying the risk factors for spinal epidural abscess can help doctors recognize the early signs of this type of infection and prevent delayed diagnoses.
Known SEA risk factors and predisposing conditions include:
If a patient has risk factors paired with symptoms of spinal epidural abscess, a doctor should order an MRI to screen for this type of infection. Early diagnosis of spinal epidural abscess based on risk factors can lead to prompt treatment and better patient outcomes. Patients who are diagnosed before experiencing neurological symptoms can often be treated with antimicrobial therapy alone, while later-stage diagnoses require surgery.
The “classic triad” of symptoms for a spinal epidural abscess is back pain (present in 75% of SEA cases), fever (48%), and neurologic deficits like motor weakness (33%). It is relatively uncommon for a patient to have all three symptoms on initial presentation to a doctor, but where this occurs, the physician must have a high index of suspicion for a spinal epidural abscess.
Blood tests and cultures provide helpful diagnostic information, but where there is a concern for spinal epidural abscess, patients should undergo an immediate MRI of the spine (or CT scan of the spine with IV contrast, if MRI is unavailable) to look for evidence of an infectious mass in the spinal canal.
When imaging reveals a spinal epidural abscess, the standard of care requires emergency neurosurgical consultation for likely surgical decompression of the spinal cord and nerve roots. The faster this can be accomplished, the greater the chance that permanent neurologic injury can be avoided, or at least minimized.
If the disease process progresses untreated, the neurologic deficits progress to include urinary retention, bowel incontinence, and progressive motor and sensory deficits culminating in paralysis, which may be permanent if surgical intervention does not occur quickly enough. A spinal cord injury lawyer in Philadelphia can explain your legal options following a medical error of this nature.
A physician has likely violated the applicable standard of care if a patient presents with the classic triad of symptoms and the physician fails to suspect spinal epidural abscess and order the appropriate diagnostic tests.
This is especially true where the patient has a risk factor for SEA, the most common of which is diabetes mellitus (present in 33% of all SEA cases). Recent instrumentation of the epidural space during lumbar puncture or epidural catheterization is another important risk factor as well.
Although spinal epidural abscess is an uncommon diagnosis, its incidence has unfortunately been increasing in recent years.
The following is a typical fact pattern in medical malpractice cases concerning a delay in diagnosis of spinal epidural abscess:
A patient presents to an emergency room with a recent onset of progressively worsening back pain, a fever, and leg or arm weakness, but the patient is either admitted to the hospital or discharged from the ER with an incorrect diagnosis. However, the patient’s neurologic condition progressively deteriorates without any recognition of the deterioration or its significance.
In a matter of two to three days, the patient has suffered a severe and irreversible spinal cord injury, leaving the patient permanently disabled. Such patients often lose the ability to work or even live independently, requiring skilled nursing or other assistance for the most basic activities of daily living (ADLs). A Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer can take your case and fight for fair compensation on your behalf.
If your spinal epidural abscess went undetected or undiagnosed for an unreasonable amount of time, or if a doctor failed to appropriately treat your abscess, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Filing a claim against a negligent doctor or hospital could result in financial compensation (damages) for a range of losses associated with the medical mistake.
The damages that may be recoverable in your case include:
At Youman & Caputo, we will carefully assess your spinal epidural abscess case to help you understand its potential value. If we believe your case has merit, our medical malpractice attorneys will use our considerable experience, knowledge and resources to seek maximum financial compensation for your losses. If a loved one tragically died due to the mishandling of spinal epidural abscess, we can help your family pursue a wrongful death claim in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia spinal epidural abscess attorneys at Youman Caputo have considerable experience handling claims involving a delay in diagnosis of spinal epidural abscess. They work with highly qualified medical experts in fields including neurosurgery and infectious disease to investigate potential cases. Where the medical evidence reveals that a patient has suffered a disabling spinal cord injury as a result of a negligent delay in diagnosis of spinal epidural abscess, Youman & Caputo litigates the case aggressively to seek the maximum compensation available under the law. Contact the law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation.
"*" indicates required fields