Spinal infections can be quite serious and sometimes difficult to diagnose. You want a spine doctor with extensive knowledge and expertise working on your case—a doctor like one of the spine experts at Twin Cities Spine Center (TC Spine).
Infections can occur anywhere in the spine—in the bone, the intervertebral disc space or the spinal canal. Such infections can be slowly developing or quickly become dangerous. Infections in the bone are called vertebral osteomyelitis. Infections in the soft, flexible discs of the spine are called discitis. They can cause severe pain and destruction of healthy bone and discs, which can lead to deformity of the spine or compression of the spinal cord and nerves.
What Causes a Spinal Infection?
Spinal infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi or other organisms. Infection can start locally in the spine after a treatment or even in another area of the body and migrate to the spine through the bloodstream.
People of any age can get a spinal infection. But infections are more likely to occur in those with a weakened immune systems and anyone who has recently undergone surgery.
What Are Symptoms of Spinal Infection?
Symptoms of a spinal infection can vary depending on the type and location of infection. They typically include:
- Redness or drainage from a recent surgery site.
- Weight loss.
- Muscle spasms.
- Difficulty with urination.
Spinal Infection Diagnosis and Treatment
Because spinal infections are relatively uncommon, they can be difficult for many doctors to recognize. The spine specialists at TC Spine set themselves apart by conducting ongoing research on the different treatment methods, some of which has been published in the Journal of Spine Disorders and Techniques and Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery.
If your doctor suspects a spinal infection, you can expect to have one or more types of imaging test—including x-ray, MRI, CT scan and possibly a bone scan. Your spine doctor may also order blood tests and consult with an infectious disease specialist. A needle biopsy may be necessary to take a sample of the area to identify the specific infecting organism.
Once the infecting organism is identified, you'll likely undergo treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment for spinal infections can be through intravenous or oral medications and often lasts for several weeks. It's possible you'll need to wear a back brace to stabilize your spine while the infection is healing.
If the infection doesn't respond to antibiotics, surgery may be needed to remove the infected material and stabilize the spine. Thanks to our world-renowned, board-certified team of orthopedic spine surgeons, you can take comfort in knowing that your treatment is in expert hands.