Considered rare, spine infections often develop over time and include a wide range of symptoms. Such infections occur when the bones of the spine, supporting discs, the covering around the spinal cord (dural sac), or the spinal cord becomes infected. Infections can develop following spine surgery or stem from certain risk factors.
Spine Infection Causes
Spine infections may result from surgery to correct another issue with the spine or spontaneously. Vertebral bone infections, a common type of spine infection, often develop in the lower back or neck and may develop in the bone that connects the spine to the pelvis. Usually resulting from bacterial or fungal organisms, infections may also be associated with:
- Poor nutrition
- Immune suppression
- HIV infections
- Diabetes and obesity
Diagnosing Spine Infections
The first step in diagnosing a spine infection is usually a review of a patient’s medical history and a physical exam. If a patient recently had surgery, the surgery site will be examined or a biopsy may be done on tissues within the affected area. Blood tests, including white blood cell counts, and image testing may be needed to pinpoint a source of the infection. Ranging from subtle to severe, symptoms associated with a spine infection may include:
- Fever and chills
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nighttime pain that’s worse than what’s experienced during the day
- Swelling and other signs of inflammation
- Tingling sensations in arms or legs
- Warmth and redness around the infection site
Spine Infection Treatments
Antibiotic or antifungal medications are typically used as a first attempt to treat spine infections. Further treatments depend on the type of infection involved and its severity. Treatment may also involve:
- Bracing to support the spine as the infection is treated
- Cleaning of the surgical wound or removal of infected tissues
- An intravenous line to deliver a course of multiple antibiotics for severe infections
Due to the vague nature of symptoms associated with most spine infections, most patients aren’t diagnosed until the infection has advanced. Many patients do, however, respond well to antibiotics. Follow-up care usually includes monitoring white blood cell counts and other markers until these levels return to normal.
If you live with chronic pain not responding well to conservative treatments, call The Spine Institute at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with an experienced board-certified orthopedic surgeon in Beverly Hills. Don’t let pain keep you from enjoying life–reach out today.