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Spine Surgery Guide

Arachnoiditis Overview

What is Arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis is the inflammation of the meninges and subarachnoid space, two structures that surround the brain and spinal cord.

Causes of arachnoiditis include infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic agents), irritation from chemicals, direct injury to the spine, chronic compression of spinal nerves, or complications of spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures.

Arachoniditis as a result of neoplasia can be due to spread from cancers outside of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or by direct spread from a cancer of the central nervous system.

The inflammation in arachnoditis can sometimes lead to tethering and/or compression of the spinal cord through the formation of scar tissue and adhesions (spinal nerves sticking together).
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Who gets Arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis can affect any age group, but is more common in adults between 40 and 60 years of age. It is equally common in both genders.

Arachnoiditis is uncommon, however, the number of cases is increasing worldwide due to the increasing number of immunocompromised patients including diabetics, alcoholics and intravenous drug abusers, people with AIDS, and transplantation and chemotherapy patients.

Predisposing Factors

Factors that increase the risk of arachnoiditis include:
  • Infection from bacteria or viruses
  • Patients with decreased immune function: diabetes, alcoholism, AIDS, chemotherapy and organ transplant patients
  • Surgery involving the brain or spinal cord
  • Contrast media, anesthetics and steroids given intrathecally (into the subarachnoid space)

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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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