Thoracolumbosacral spinal subdural abscess: Magnetic resonance imaging appearance and limited surgical management

Jad G. Khalil, Ahmad Nassr, Felix E. Diehn, Norbert G. Campeau, John L. Atkinson, Irene G. Sia, Amgad Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective. To report a rare case of a thoracolumbosacral spinal subdural abscess (SSA) and highlight the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appearance and surgical management. Summary of Background Data. SSA is rare, as most intraspinal abscesses are epidural in location. Extensive thoracolumbosacral SSA has only rarely been reported. The MRI features and options for limited surgical management are not well described. Methods. A case report of SSA is presented and relevant literature is reviewed. Results. An elderly female presented with worsening back pain and sepsis. MRI demonstrated an extensive intraspinal abscess, extending from the upper thoracic spine to the sacrum. Both axial and sagittal images demonstrated a subdural location of the collection, with preservation of the dorsal epidural fat and mass effect on the spinal cord. Cord compression was most marked at the T8 level. Limited midthoracic laminectomies were performed. The epidural space seemed normal intraoperatively. A limited longitudinal durotomy yielded purulent fluid. After intraoperative irrigation, primary dural repair was performed. At 2-year follow-up, the patient had no clinical, radiographical, or laboratory evidence of residual or recurrent spinal infection. Conclusion. Careful review of MRI can localize an intraspinal abscess to the subdural space. Even for extensive subdural collections, limited operative management can achieve excellent clinical outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E844-E847
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013


  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Limited laminectomy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neurological compromise
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Spinal epidural abscess
  • Spinal infection
  • Spinal subdural abscess

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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