Considered rare, infections of the spinal cord and brain can pose serious risks due to the swelling that often results from such infections. Treatment depends on the extent of the infection, how far it has progressed, when it’s detected, and where it’s located. Los Angeles spine surgeons discuss 3 of the most common infections of the spinal cord and brain.
Sometimes preventable with a vaccine, meningitis is a swelling of protective membranes (meninges) covering the spinal cord and brain. This condition can be viral or bacterial. Viral meningitis is rarely serious, while bacterial meningitis, which sometimes results in a fracture of the skull due to the inflammation, can be life threatening. Severe cases may cause brain damage, stroke, or death. Possible symptoms include:
- High fever over 102°F
- Neck soreness affected by movement
- Extreme sensitivity to bright lights and noises
- Severe headaches
2. Brain Abscess
A brain abscess is a pocket of infected material within tissues. The resulting fungal, bacterial, or viral infection causes the brain to swell, resulting in the formation of dead cells and an assortment of neurological symptoms. More than half of all brain abscesses stem from infections in other parts of the body or outside causes, such as a middle ear infection. Surgery may be necessary to decrease pressure on the brain and drain the abscess.
Similar to meningitis, encephalitis results in an infection and related inflammation within the brain rather than the spinal cord, and it may occur simultaneously with meningitis (meningoencephalitis). Without meningitis, it’s usually caused by a viral infection like herpes or measles. Symptoms can be mild and flu-like and may include:
- Headache and fever
- Muscle and joint aches
- Fatigue and weakness
More serious symptoms may include:
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Paralysis of the face or loss of sensation
Symptoms of spinal cord and brain infections can range from mild to severe, and signs of an infection may be vague enough to the point where diagnosis becomes a process of elimination of other possible causes. Once the source of the infection is found, treatment typically involves rest and intravenous antibiotics.
To learn more about conditions affecting the spinal cord and brain, or to find out about available treatments for severe neck and back pain, reach out to The Spine Institute Center. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons can diagnose the source of your pain and determine the most effective course for treatment. We specialize in the artificial disc replacement and decompression surgery Los Angeles patients claim has helped them find relief. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.