When Infection Affects the Spine

Infection can occur in the spine. It is most commonly by bacteria or fungus. Infection can affect the bones and the soft tissues in the spine.

Spinal infections happen in children and adults. Some people are at greater risk. For example, anyone having open back surgery is at risk. Older men, anyone using injected drugs, and people with other diseases, such as diabetes or tuberculosis, are also at greater risk for having a spinal infection.

Treatment depends on knowing what kind of infection is present. Specific antibiotics are matched to each kind of bacteria. The earlier the problem is seen, the sooner diagnosis and treatment can begin. Early treatment means fewer symptoms and less chance of needing surgery. Good nutrition is especially important for a quick return to health.

If spinal infections are not caught early and treated successfully, the infection can spread. This can lead to destruction of the bones and soft tissues in the spine. It can also cause pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerves, leading to even more severe problems. Back pain from a spinal infection can last for months and become chronic, even with treatment.

Reference: 

Bobby K-B Tay, MD, et al. Spinal Infections. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. May/June 2002. Vol. 10. No. 3. Pp. 188-197.

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