Holospinal epidural abscesses – Institutional experience

Kelly J. Bridges, Khoi D. Than

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: The authors present a holospinal epidural abscesses (HEA) case series and a single institution's experience with varied surgical approaches and outcomes. Methods: Medical records were queried and reviewed (6 years) for patients with a spinal abscess diagnosis; HEA were selected. Medical history, comorbidities, blood and epidural pathogens, presentation symptoms, abscess location, presence of mass effect, surgical procedures, treatment regimens, and neurological outcomes were collected. Results: Eight patients with HEA were treated; all underwent surgery. In the index procedure, one (12.5%) underwent laminectomy of the entire spinal column, four (50%) focal laminectomies at the area of mass effect, and three (37.5%) skip laminectomies. Of the four patients who initially had focal laminectomies, three (75%) required additional operations for abscess evacuation in other spine regions. Average number of laminectomies per patient was 8.6. Neurologically, 50% of patients improved, 37.5% remained stable, and 12.5% worsened. There was no difference in outcome between patients who underwent skip versus panspinal laminectomies. No differences in outcomes were noted in timing from presentation to surgery (median 5.3 h), location of mass effect, dorsal versus ventral abscesses, or initial symptoms. Of the four patients who had cervical laminectomy without fusion, two developed post-laminectomy kyphosis requiring fusion. Conclusion: Cervical instability occurred in half the patients who underwent cervical laminectomies without fusion, and there were no adverse outcomes in the patients who were fused in the setting of infection. For lower cervical abscess, upper thoracic laminectomy with catheter irrigation may be sufficient for decompression, minimizing risk of future instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Holocord spinal epidural abscess
  • Holospinal epidural abscess
  • Multiregional spinal epidural abscess
  • Panregional spinal epidural abscess
  • Panspinal epidural abscess
  • Spine abscess

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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