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Spinal Cord Infections Medication

  • Author: Andrew K Chang, MD; Chief Editor: Robert E O'Connor, MD, MPH  more...
Updated: Dec 15, 2015

Medication Summary

The goal of therapy is to eradicate infections. The empiric antimicrobial therapy should take into account the mechanism of infection, which helps predict the most likely infection organism or organisms.

For example, for contiguous spread through a sinus tract opening, one suggested regimen is vancomycin plus cefotaxime plus metronidazole.

For postneurosurgical complication, a suggested regimen consists of vancomycin plus ceftazidime with or without metronidazole.

For cryptogenic infection (ie, no identified primary source), a suggested regimen is ampicillin plus cefotaxime plus metronidazole. Ampicillin must be administered to cover L monocytogenes.

For hematogenous spread, the choice of antibiotics obviously depends on the primary source of infection. The optimal duration of antimicrobial therapy is not well defined. One review recommended a minimum of 4-6 weeks of parenteral therapy, with consideration of an additional 2-3 months of oral antimicrobial therapy.



Class Summary

Therapy must be comprehensive and cover all likely pathogens in the context of this clinical setting.

Vancomycin (Vancocin, Vancoled, Lyphocin)


Potent antibiotic directed against gram-positive organisms and active against Enterococcus species. Useful in treatment of septicemia and skin structure infections. Indicated for patients who cannot receive or have failed to respond to penicillins and cephalosporins or who have infections with resistant staphylococci.

Cefotaxime (Claforan)


Arrests bacterial cell wall synthesis, which, in turn, inhibits bacterial growth. Third-generation cephalosporin with gram-negative spectrum. Lower efficacy against gram-positive organisms.

Metronidazole (Flagyl IV, Metro IV)


Imidazole ring-based antibiotic active against various anaerobic bacteria and protozoa. Used in combination with other antimicrobial agents (except for Clostridium difficile enterocolitis).

Ceftazidime (Ceptaz, Fortaz, Tazicef, Tazidime)


Third-generation cephalosporin with broad-spectrum gram-negative activity; lower efficacy against gram-positive organisms; higher efficacy against resistant organisms. Arrests bacterial growth by binding to one or more penicillin-binding proteins.

Ampicillin (Marcillin, Omnipen, Principen, Polycillin-N)


Bactericidal activity against susceptible organisms. Alternative to amoxicillin when unable to take medication orally.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Andrew K Chang, MD Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center

Andrew K Chang, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Neurology, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

J Stephen Huff, MD, FACEP Professor of Emergency Medicine and Neurology, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine

J Stephen Huff, MD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Robert E O'Connor, MD, MPH Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Virginia Health System

Robert E O'Connor, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Association for Physician Leadership, American Heart Association, Medical Society of Delaware, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, Wilderness Medical Society, American Medical Association, National Association of EMS Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Daniel J Dire, MD, FACEP, FAAP, FAAEM Clinical Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Texas Medical School at Houston; Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Sciences Center San Antonio

Daniel J Dire, MD, FACEP, FAAP, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Association of Military Surgeons of the US

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Graph showing age distribution of 91 patients with intramedullary spinal cord abscess. The age or gender of 14 patients is unknown.
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