Author(s): Efthimios J Karadimas, Cody Bunger, Bend Erling Lindblad, Ebbe Stender Hansen, Kristian Hy, Peter Helmig, Anne Sofie Kannerup, Bent Niedermann
Background and purpose Spondylodiscitis may be a serious disease due to diagnostic delay and inadequate treatment. There is no consensus on when and how to operate. We therefore retrospectively analyzed the outcome of a large series of patients treated either nonoperatively or surgically. Patients and methods Between 1992 and 2000, 163 patients (101 males) were hospitalized due to spondylodiscitis. The mean age was 56 (1–83) years. The infection was located in the cervical spine in 13 patients (8%), in the thoracic spine in 62 patients (38%), at the thoracolumbar junction in 10 patients (6%), and in the lumbo-sacral spine in 78 patients (48%). In 67 patients (41%), no microorganisms were detected. Most of the other patients had Staphylococcus aureus infection (53 patients) and/or Mycobacterium tuberculosis (22 patients). The patients were divided into 3 groups: (A) 70 patients who had nonoperative treatment, (B) 56 patients who underwent posterior decompression alone, and (C) 37 patients who underwent decompression and stabilization. Results At 12-month follow-up, nonoperative treatment (A) had failed in 8/70 patients, who had subsequently been operated. 24/56 and 6/37 had been reoperated in groups B and C, respectively. Group A patients had no neurological symptoms. In group B, 11 had neurological deficits and surgery was beneficial for 5 of them; 4 remained unchanged and 2 deteriorated (1 due to cerebral abscess). 11 patients in group C had altered neurogical deficits, which improved in 9 of them. 20 patients had died during the 1-year follow-up, 3 in hospital, directly related with infection. Interpretation Nonoperative treatment was effective in nine-tenths of the patients. Decompression alone had high a reoperation rate compared to decompression and internal stabilization.