Podcast # 360: Epidural Abscess Screening - The Emergency Medical Minute

Author: Dylan Luyten, MD.

Educational Pearls:


  • Dangerous causes of back pain: AAA, cauda equina syndrome, epidural abscess.
  • Young person with back pain needs to be evaluated for injection drug use (major risk factor).
  • Patient with focal neurologic deficits (FND) require an MRI.  Patients without FND can be screened with ESR and CRP. An ESR < 20 & CRP < 1 can effectively rule out epidural abscess as it has a 90% sensitivity for epidural abscess.
  • Treatment is IV antibiotics and surgical debridement.



Davis DP et al. Prospective evaluation of a clinical decision guideline to diagnose spinal epidural abscess in patients who present to the emergency department with spine pain, Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. 2011. 14:765-770.

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