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What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Epidural Abscess?

A spinal epidural abscess is a serious type of infection that forms in the space surrounding the spinal cord. Early identification and treatment of a spinal epidural abscess is critical. If left untreated, it can cause severe and irreversible harm to the spine and nervous system, potentially resulting in paralysis. A Philadelphia spinal epidural abscess attorney can help you explore your legal options if you suffer harm due to this type of infection.

Doctors Discussing Symptoms of a Spinal Epidural Abscess

What Is a Spinal Epidural Abscess?

A spinal epidural abscess is a pocket of pus that forms between the outer covering of the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. As the pocket accumulates fluid, germs and infected material, it can grow and cause swelling and inflammation in the area. It can press on the spine and cause irreversible damage. If left untreated, the abscess can grow until it affects the nervous system, including sensations and motor function.

Common Symptoms of a Spinal Epidural Abscess

A spinal epidural abscess can be caused by the introduction of a bacterial infection into the epidural space. Two of the most common are Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. It can also be caused by a fungus or another type of germ circulating in the body. Someone with an infection in the vertebrae or a patient who has had a surgical procedure on the spine is more likely to develop a spinal epidural abscess.

Symptoms often associated with this condition include:

  • Back pain: a patient may notice severe back pain, either localized to one specific area of the back or radiating throughout the back and down the legs.
  • Fever: a high temperature is often associated with this type of infection, as this is the body’s response to any infection. A fever may be accompanied by chills and sweating.
  • Neurological deficits: including trouble walking, problems with coordination and movement, general weakness in the arms or legs, loss of bowel or bladder control, or paralysis in any part of the body.
  • Nausea or vomiting: a patient may experience feelings of nausea, upset stomach or vomiting, as well as drowsiness, sluggishness or fatigue.

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.

Potential Complications of a Spinal Epidural Abscess

A spinal epidural abscess needs to be diagnosed and treated right away. Failing to take immediate action can cause morbidity and mortality, according to the National Library of Medicine. If left untreated, the abscess can continue to grow and worsen until it causes severe complications for the patient. Potential long-term effects include meningitis, an abscess forming on the spine itself, chronic back pain, irreversible damage to the nervous system and permanent paralysis.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits for Spinal Epidural Abscess

It is possible for a spinal epidural abscess to lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit. A prudent health care professional should be able to recognize the symptoms that require consideration of the possibility of spinal epidural abscess and ordering the necessary testing to diagnose the condition or rule it out. A careless doctor may not order the correct tests to rule out an epidural abscess or may misinterpret the test results.

A doctor may also ignore a patient’s symptoms or fail to treat the patient due to issues at the hospital such as understaffing. The patient may be misdiagnosed with a less serious illness and not receive the treatment that he or she needs to recover. This could lead to the condition worsening and eventually causing permanent neurologic damage or paralysis.

If you or a loved one suffered from a spinal epidural abscess that was misdiagnosed, diagnosed late or improperly treated by a health care provider, contact Youman & Caputo for a free evaluation of a potential Philadelphia medical malpractice claim. You may be entitled to financial compensation.