Spinal cord infection: Myelitis and abscess formation

Kieran J. Murphy, James A Brunberg, Douglas J. Quint, Powel H. Kazanjian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Our purpose was to describe the MR findings and evolution of spinal cord abscess and to define those MR features that allow differentiation of cord infection from other intramedullary abnormalities. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the MR studies of all patients in whom intramedullary spinal cord abscess was proved either by blood or cerebrospinal fluid culture or by serologic examination at our institution between January 1988 and January 1996. The study group included four adults and two children, 7 to 74 years old (mean age, 38 years). RESULTS: Initial MR studies showed intramedullary high signal on T2-weighted sequences with poorly defined marginal enhancement on T1-weighted images. On follow-up contrast-enhanced T1-weighted studies, the lesions had well-defined enhancing margins with central low signal intensity. After the initiation of therapy, T2 signal abnormalities decreased markedly and contrast-enhanced studies showed ring enhancement. These T1 findings resolved with treatment over serial studies in four patients. The organisms identified were Streptococcus milleria, S pyogenes, atypical mycobacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Schistosoma mansoni (both children). CONCLUSION: A characteristic sequence of imaging findings aids in the differentiation of cord infection from other intramedullary lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-348
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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