Infections of the Spine

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

Spinal infections may arise spontaneously or as a secondary condition, such as after an invasive medical procedure. Infections in the spine may affect different structures, such as the vertebral column (spinal bones), intervertebral disc space (the cushion-like structures between the vertebrae), and the spinal canal.

Below are some facts about incidence and prevalence of various spinal infections:

Spinal Infection Risk Factors
Certain factors increase your risk of developing spinal infections. Risk factors include:

Spinal Infection Symptoms and Diagnosis
Spinal infection symptoms vary, but constant back pain without a history of trauma is cause for concern. Often, there is a delay in diagnosing a spinal infection because of the subtle presentation, the failure to take pain seriously, and the absence of body-wide signs, such as fever.

Also complicating the diagnostic process is that lab results may be misleading, as normal white blood cell counts are common, x-rays often show no abnormalities early on, and even more sensitive diagnostic tests (eg, bone scan) may not become positive for a week.

An elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a valuable screening test. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a lab test that measures the rate at which red blood cells settle in a test tube. The test can measure inflammation and/or infection in the body.

When a spinal infection is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be the most reliable tool to confirm the diagnosis early.

Continue Reading

Discitis is a Spinal Disc Infection and Inflammation