Indexed on: 24 Jun '14Published on: 24 Jun '14Published in: The Spine Journal
Spinal epidural abscess (SEA) is a serious condition that can lead to significant morbidity and mortality if not expeditiously diagnosed and appropriately treated. However, the nonspecific findings that accompany SEAs often make its diagnosis difficult. Concurrent noncontiguous SEAs are even more challenging to diagnose because whole-spine imaging is not routinely performed unless the patient demonstrates neurologic findings that are inconsistent with the identified lesion. Failure to recognize a separate SEA can subject patients to a second operation, continued sepsis, paralysis, or even death.To formulate a set of clinical and laboratory predictors for identifying patients with concurrent noncontiguous SEAs.A retrospective, case-control study.Patients aged 18 years or older admitted to our institution during the study period who underwent entire spinal imaging and were diagnosed with one or more SEAs.The presence or absence of concurrent noncontiguous SEAs on magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography (CT)-myelogram.A retrospective review was performed on 233 adults with SEAs who presented to our health-care system from 1993 to 2011 and underwent entire spinal imaging. The clinical and radiographic features of patients with concurrent noncontiguous SEAs, defined as at least two lesions in different anatomical regions of the spine (ie, cervical, thoracic, or lumbar), were compared with those with a single SEA. Multivariate logistic regression identified independent predictors for the presence of a skip SEA, and a prediction algorithm based on these independent predictors was constructed. Institutional review board committee approval was obtained before initiating the study.Univariate and multivariate analyses comparing patients with skip SEA lesions (n=22) with those with single lesions (n=211) demonstrated significant differences in three factors: delay in presentation (defined as symptoms for ≥7 days), a concomitant area of infection outside the spine and paraspinal region, and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate of >95 mm/h at presentation. The predicted probability for the presence of a skip lesion was 73% for patients possessing all three predictors, 13% for two, 2% for one, and 0% for zero predictors. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, used to evaluate the predictive accuracy of the model, revealed a steep shoulder with an area under the curve of 0.936 (p<.001).The proposed set of three predictors may be a useful tool in predicting the risk of a skip SEA lesion and, consequently, which patients would benefit from entire spinal imaging.