Thoracic Spondylodiscitis Epidural Abscess in an Afebrile Navy Veteran: A Case Report

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The purpose of this case study was to describe the differential diagnosis of a thoracic epidural abscess in a Navy veteran who presented to a chiropractic clinic for evaluation and management with acupuncture within a Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Clinical Features:

An afebrile 59-year-old man with acute thoracic spine pain and chronic low back pain presented to the chiropractic clinic at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center for consideration for acupuncture treatment.

Intervention and Outcome:

The veteran elected to trial acupuncture once per week for 4 weeks. A routine thoracic magnetic resonance imaging scan without gadolinium detected a space-occupying lesion after the patient failed to attain 50% reduction of pain within 2 weeks with conservative care. The patient was diagnosed with a multilevel thoracic spondylodiscitis epidural abscess and was treated same day with emergency debridement and laminectomy of T7-8 with a T6-9 fusion. The patient had complete recovery without neurological compromise and completed an antibiotic regimen for 6 weeks.


A Navy veteran with acute thoracic spine and chronic low back pain appeared to respond initially but failed to achieve clinically meaningful outcomes. Follow-up advanced imaging detected a thoracic spondylodiscitis epidural abscess. Early diagnosis and immediate intervention are important to preserving neurological function and limiting morbidity in cases of spondylodiscitis epidural abscess.

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