​Spinal Cord Abscess

Spinal cord abscess (SCA) occurs when injured spinal tissue becomes infected with pus. This can occur due to bacteria, which grows inside the body.

SCA is a rare disease of the spinal cord and the areas in or around it. It can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord. Back injuries, boils on the skin, back surgery or spread of an infection through the bloodstream are risk factors for the disease. There could be other factors such as trauma (a bullet or knife wound, for instance).

The pressure that an abscess places on the spinal cord can cause paralysis or other neurological problems (that is, problems related to the nerves).

SCA may initially be present with no symptoms, until infection causes symptoms to develop. Some of the symptoms that may be experienced by your child will include:

  • Sudden pain, that spreads to the arms or legs

  • Numbness

  • Tingling sensation

  • Fever

  • Weakness

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially in severity, make an appointment with your specialist working with the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

As the symptoms of spinal cord abscess are vague, and similar to many other diseases, your doctor will usually begin diagnosis by ordering blood tests. Some of the different types of blood tests may include CBC (complete blood count) and a test to measure protein levels in the blood.
If a blood test reveals something of concern, your doctor will order further, more comprehensive tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the spinal cord. This procedure generates computerized images of the spine that doctors can use to diagnose your child’s condition.
A similar test known as Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, which is a quick, painless, non-invasive and accurate imaging procedure, may also be prescribed. Your doctor may also order a spinal tap (also known as a lumbar puncture) which is an invasive procedure that taps into your spine and removes a sample of fluid for further testing.

One of the procedures for treatment is a surgery known as laminectomy. Your surgeon will cut open the spinal abscess and remove all the fluid, before cleaning it with saline (salt) solution to prevent further infection.

Doctors can also perform a procedure to close the gap between the skin and spinal canal (also known as dermal sinus) in order to prevent further infection.

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do before your surgery”.

Some of the risk factors associated with spinal abscess are:

  • Long term use of blood thinners (also known as anticoagulants)

  • Bacteria or infection causing the immune system to weaken

  • Gallbladder infection

  • Bowel inflammation

  • These factors increase the risk of infection, whenever present.

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do after your surgery”.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.