clinical features

Last reviewed 01/2018

The clinical features of a spinal abscess depend on the stage at which it presents:

  • acute:
    • severe pain at the level of the abscess, exacerbated by movement and associated with local muscle spasm
    • neck stiffness
    • patient systemically unwell
    • neurological dysfunction with increasing cord compression
    • eventually, thrombophlebitis of the dural and cord vessels with subsequent total hemiplegia and loss of sphincter function.

  • chronic - for example, tuberculous abscesses:
    • low-grade systemic malaise
    • slowly-progressing neurological dysfunction
    • occasional acute deterioration due to vertebral collapse