Outbreak of a Virulent Strain of MeningitisThe outbreak of a virulent strain of meningitis due to a tainted supply of steroids was only one of the illnesses in what has become a national health crisis.
Many patients have complained of swelling and pain at the epidural injection site, even after the meningitis symptoms have cleared up. It appears that epidural abscesses have formed on some patients, even after having taken powerful antifungal medications. Epidural abscesses form under the skin; they can only diagnosed with certainty using an MRI. Some cases can be cleared with drug treatments, others require surgical intervention.
Spinal Epidural abscessAn epidural abscess is the collection of pus that can be found either in the skull or alongside the spinal column. Spinal epidural abscesses are typically caused by bacteria, but can also be due to fungal infections, or result from a spinal trauma or surgery. Patients with epidural abscesses typically experience neck or back pain, fever, difficulty with urination or bowel and bladder incontinence.
While it is possible to recover completely from an epidural abscess, it can return even after aggressive treatment. If left untreated, permanent nervous system damage could occur, and even paralysis or death.
The black fungus that infected more than 500 patients nationwide and killed nearly 40 was so prevalent in the vials of medication that it could be seen with the naked eye. The epidural injections left patients vulnerable to conditions such as meningitis, arachnoiditis and epidural abscesses because the slightest slip of the needle could have sent the fungus into the spinal column, which is a welcoming environment for fungus due to the temperature and the nutrient content. The fungus would then be carried in the spinal fluid up to the brain, which has very limited defense mechanisms against infection.
While meningitis was the most common infection resulting from the contaminated drug, there have been a few cases of epidural abscesses without accompanying meningitis. Unfortunately, fungal epidural abscesses are fairly rare, and many hospitals have very little or no experience treating them. While some abscesses can be surgically removed, others are wrapped around delicate nerves and cannot be extracted. Some patients have multiple epidural abscesses.
Patients who have received or are receiving treatment for fungal meningitis must continue to receive evaluations by their physicians for additional infections and complications, even well after the infection appears to have cleared up. It is critically important to address epidural abscesses immediately, before nerve damage sets in that could be irreversible.