Spinal epidural abscess is a rare pathology with an incidence that has tripled in the past two decades. Ventral cervical epidural abscesses (vCEA) of the cervical spine pose particular treatment challenges due to the anatomical location. The aim of this report is to identify trends in the surgical management of these patients and to determine whether concomitant spondylodiscitis warrants fusion at the index surgery.
Patients presenting to a quaternary care institution from January 2009 to December 2018 with isolated vCEA were identified. Patients were excluded if they had dorsal or circumferential epidural abscesses. Clinical and radiographic data were collected. Patients with vCEA were stratified by the presence or absence of spondylodiscitis upon presentation. Clinical outcomes analyzed included neurological sequelae and the need for revision surgery.
During the 10-year study period, 36 patients presented with symptomatic isolated vCEA and constituted the study cohort; 16 (44%) had concurrent spondylodiscitis. All 36 patients underwent surgical decompression; the initial surgical approach was anterior-only for 7 patients (19%), posterior-only for 27 patients (75%), and a combined approach for 2 patients (6%). Four patients from the total cohort (11%) ultimately required a revision operation; all 4 were from the subset with concurrent spondylodiscitis (25% vs 0%, p=0.03).
Ventral cervical epidural abscesses can be evacuated safely and effectively by a variety of strategies in patients with neurologic deficits. Concomitant spondylodiscitis with cervical epidural abscess may warrant instrumented fusion as part of the initial surgical strategy.

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