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Spinal cord abscess is characterized by swelling and irritation in or around the spinal cord. This rare yet life-threatening condition is caused by a pus-filled infection in the spinal cord. The pus filled pockets exert pressure on the spinal cord. Staphylococcus infection and tuberculosis are the common causes of spinal infection.
Spinal infections can result from back injuries or trauma, skin boils, and complications arising out of back surgery. Sometimes the infection from another part of the body may spread to the spine. Symptoms may include any of the following: fever with chills, loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of movement or sensation in the affected area, or low backache.
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection while at the same time relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. Antibiotic medications that are administered intravenously are used in combination with bracing and rest. Bracing is usually recommended to provide external support and stability to the spine. Blood tests and x-rays may have to be repeated several times during the treatment to check the response to medications.
Surgery is recommended by an orthopedist, only if the infection cannot be controlled with antibiotics and bracing or in cases of nerve compression. Surgery is aimed at removal of infection to relieve pain and prevent spinal deformity. Neurologic compression can also be relieved by surgery. Spinal infections can lead to serious complications if left untreated. It is, therefore advisable to seek timely treatment.
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