New Jersey Lawyers Representing Victims of Epidural Abscess With Spinal Cord Compression
A spinal epidural abscess occurs when the bacteria or fungus from an infection multiply, creating a large pocket of pus and fluid in the spinal column. The pressure from the growing pocket of liquid can significantly compress the blood vessels in the spinal cord and lead to serious nerve damage. In the worst cases, epidural abscess with spinal cord compression can create chronic back pain, loss of bladder control, permanent paralysis, or even death. The necessity for recognizing and addressing a spinal epidural abscess is underscored by the potential complications if left untreated. Medical professionals may opt for intravenous antibiotics and/or emergency surgical intervention, depending on the progression of the condition in each case. Tragically, in certain circumstances, the negligence of a medical professional can allow a spinal epidural abscess to fester and proliferate, risking the health and potentially, the life of the patient.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our highly experienced medical malpractice attorneys have achieved millions of dollars in successful verdicts and settlements on behalf of victims and their families. In fact, in a recent case, our firm recovered $1.65 million in damages on behalf of a young woman who suffered paraplegia after her medical provider failed to recognize an epidural abscess. If you or a loved one is faced with similar circumstances, our legal team can provide you with the compassionate and knowledgeable legal counsel that you need during this difficult time. Schedule a free initial consultation with one of our lawyers today by calling 973-435-4551 (toll free at 888-409-0816) or contact us online for additional information.
Spinal Epidural Abscess: The Basics
A spinal epidural abscess (SEA) is the build-up of pus in the epidural space, the area between a membrane and the vertebral wall, containing fat and blood vessels, in the cerebrospinal fluid filled dura sac (the tube that surrounds the spinal cord) just outside of the nerve roots. It usually occurs in the upper, middle (thoracic) and lower (lumbar) spine or along the spinal cord. Although the cause is unknown in one-third of cases, the most common reason for the abscess is staphylococcus aureus (staph), methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), or E-Coli bacteria. Less frequently, the cause is a skin tuberculosis abscess or bacteria found on medical instruments, in dental procedures or with intravenous drug use. In approximately half of SEA cases, bacteria travel into the epidural space through the bloodstream from infections of the skin, soft tissue, urinary or respiratory tract. People with compromised immune systems due to medications or disease are more susceptible to developing a spinal epidural abscess.
Symptoms of Spinal Epidural Abscess
When dealing with a spinal epidural abscess, symptoms include radiating back pain that increases over time, spine tenderness and often fever. Over time, the impacted spinal nerves may cause partial leg paralysis, bladder and bowel problems, and numbness in the pelvic region, which can worsen in a matter of hours or days. Early detection is paramount. SEA should be highly suspected when the doctor thumps the spine and observes the patient in severe pain or observes tenderness in the spine, along with other symptoms like fever, reported recent infection, IV drug use, or dental work. If suspected, an MRI should be ordered immediately, even if further arising neurological symptoms would confirm the diagnosis. Although the classic symptoms of SEA are back pain, fever and neurological decline, a small percentage of patients present with all three. Usually, it is severe back pain that brings the patient in. A doctor should not wait for those further signs to appear to confirm diagnosis, as delayed diagnosis of a spinal epidural abscess can lead to permanent neurological damage and even death.
Spinal Epidural Abscess Diagnosis
Diagnosing SEA can be difficult because the condition is relatively rare, accounting for fewer than 3 cases per 10,000 hospital admissions. Nevertheless, the number of spinal epidural abscess cases has doubled in recent years. Unfortunately, the condition is easily overlooked or misdiagnosed, as the symptoms are not specific and appear like many other less serious conditions. An MRI (Myelography) is the best method of detection, referred to as the gold standard of imaging for this condition, followed by CT scan. An MRI will not only measure the location and size of the abscess, but also distinguish the abscess from other masses. Blood samples from infected areas may be cultured also. Spinal puncture risks further infection and so is typically not recommended. Checking for mirroring symptoms, like an inflamed disk, can help diagnose SEA because a swollen disk is usually followed by an abscess. This is distinct from a tumor, which does not affect the disk and will generally affect bone. While X-rays may not detect the condition, this form of imaging test may show a bone infection, which mimics some of the symptoms of spinal epidural abscesses. Other conditions that may be misdiagnosed in cases involving epidural abscess include degenerative joint disease, bulging disk, tumor, discitis, meningitis, urinary tract infection, and spinal bruises.
Treatment for Epidural Abscess
A spinal epidural abscess is typically treated with antibiotics that cover staph, other anaerobes (bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow) or gram-negative microbes. If critical to alleviating spinal compression on nerves, a treating physician may drain the pus and test it. If nerve compression causes paralysis, bowel or bladder problems, immediate drainage and culturing of the pus is also the protocol. Surgery should be performed as soon as possible, followed by intravenous antibiotics for four to six weeks, if the symptoms have not progressed to paralysis for more than a day and the patient is not at high risk for surgical complications. Even with advanced imaging and powerful antibiotics, 30 percent of SEA patients do not have successful outcomes. Still, the best chances for successful outcomes is early recognition and prompt treatment of the condition.
Bringing Your Claim of Medical Malpractice After Epidural Abscess Complication in New Jersey
The negligence of physicians and other medical personnel can create or contribute to spinal epidural abscesses. If your medical provider was responsible for any of the following, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim:
- Incorrectly performed an epidural injection during childbirth
- Failed to recognize signs of an abscess and order tests, such as MRIs
- Failed to order emergency surgery (a laminectomy) to drain the abscess
- Made a surgical error or failed to completely drain the abscess
- Did not prescribe appropriate antibiotics to combat the infection
Standard practice requires a physician to detect a serious condition like spinal epidural abscess, and with early recognition and treatment using available technology like MRI, your physician is required to provide an acceptable standard of care. Despite this responsibility, your doctor or another medical professional may have negligently fallen below the accepted practices and standard of care of physicians confronted with the same symptoms and circumstances. Injuries resulting from their negligence may pave the way for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When we become involved in your case, we begin by conducting a thorough investigation to identify medical errors, consulting with experts who can attest to the negligence that contributed to your injuries, and constructing a comprehensive portrait of the long and short-term repercussions of these injuries to support your claim. We seek full compensation for current and future medical care, the emotional distress caused by these injuries, and any other considerations that may be applicable to your case.
Request a Free Consultation with Our New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Doctors who miss the early warning signs of spinal epidural abscess, misdiagnose or fail to diagnose the condition, render inadequate treatment, or otherwise fail to uphold the proper standard of care, may be liable for damages in a medical malpractice action. Consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Fronzuto Law Group who is familiar with epidural abscess malpractice to discuss your potential claim for compensation. To speak with one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers in New Jersey today, contact our offices at 973-435-4551 (toll free at 888-409-0816) or submit an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.
Spinal Epidural Abscess: Common Symptoms of an Emergency Condition, Journal of Neuroradiology