Etiology and Surgical Management of Cervical Spinal Epidural Abscess (SEA):: A Systematic Review

Geoffrey Stricsek*, Justin Iorio, Yusef Mosley, Srinivas Prasad, Joshua Heller, Jack Jallo, Soroush Shahrokh, James S. Harrop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Study Design: Systematic analysis and review. Objective: Evaluation of the presentation, etiology, management strategies (including both surgical and nonsurgical options), and neurological functional outcomes in patients with cervical spinal epidural abscess (SEA). Methods: The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) criteria were used to create a framework based on which articles pertaining to cervical SEA were chosen for review following a search of the Ovid and PubMed databases using the search terms “epidural abscess” and “cervical.” Included studies needed to have at least 4 patients aged 18 years or older, and to have been published within the past 20 years. Results: Database searches yielded 521 potential articles in PubMed and 974 potential articles in Ovid. After review, 11 studies were ultimately identified for inclusion in this systematic review. Surgery appears to be a well-tolerated management strategy with limited complications for patients with cervical SEA. However, the quantity of data comparing medical and surgical treatment of cervical SEA is limited and the bulk of the data is derived from low quality studies. Conclusion: Data reporting was heterogeneous among studies making it difficult to draw discrete conclusions. Early surgical intervention may be appropriate in selected patients with cervical epidural abscess, but it is not clear what distinguishes these patients from those who are successfully managed nonoperatively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59S-67S
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number4_suppl
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • cervical spine
  • epidural abscess
  • neurological deficit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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