Flea Bytes: Antibiotics or Surgery for Spinal Epidural Abscess

Baseline rates of treatment failure have varied in studies and rates have ranged from 8.5 to 17% in the best case scenarios to 43-75% in other studies. So even at baseline, we know that a significant number of patients will fail antibiotics and require surgery. Risk factors include diabetes mellitus, leukocytosis greater than 12.5, positive blood cultures, and C-reactive protein greater than 115. One risk factor increases failure rates for to 35.4%, two risk factors increases failure to 40.2%, and three or more risk factors increases failure rates to 76.9%.

So basically, most patients should ideally managed with surgery and barring that we should advocate for surgery in patients who have risk factors.