- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated Disc
- Lower Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy)
- Spinal Arthritis
- Spinal Deformities
- Spine Infections
- Spinal Stenosis
- Spine Trauma and Spinal Cord Injuries
- Spinal Tumors and Cancer
- Tingling in Arms (Cervical Radiculopathy)
- Upper Back Pain
What is a Bacterial Infection of the Spine?
Spine infections can develop when bacteria spreads to a vertebra from the blood. Bacteria that infect the spine usually originate in other parts of the body and are carried to the spine through the bloodstream. But bacteria can enter the spine directly during surgery or injection treatments, as the result of injury, or because of IV drug use.
Bacterial infections of the spine are rare but can include infection of:
- The discs (discitis).
- The space and tissues surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots (epidural abscess)
- One or more vertebrae (osteomyelitis)
- The facet joints, which may be the site of infectious arthritis
A spinal infection can start either in vertebral bone tissue, the intervertebral disc, or the space through which the spinal cord runs, the spinal canal, and the epidural space. A spinal infection can happen anywhere along the entire spine.
What Are the Risk Factors and Causes of Spinal Infections?
Anyone from young children to the elderly can get a spinal infection. Sometimes, a cause for the infection may not always be able to be identified, but these are risk factors that can increase the chances of a spine infection:
- IV Drug use
- Hemodialysis or renal failure
- Immunosuppression caused by alcohol, chronic steroid use, cancer, malnutrition or AIDS
- Infectious endocarditis
- Prior invasive procedures or spinal surgeries
- Advanced age, with no other risk factors
The most common area of the spine affected is the lumbar region.
Spinal Infection Symptoms
Vertebral osteomyelitis is an infection and inflammation of the bone and bone marrow of the vertebrae. On the other hand, intervertebral disc space infections involve the space between adjacent vertebrae. Spinal canal infections and adjacent soft-tissue infections can also occur.
Spinal infection symptoms include:
- Severe and persistent back pain that worsens at night and/or is aggravated by movement
- Pain that radiates into the arms and legs
- Tingling, numbness, and/or burning sensations
- Unexplained weight loss
- Wound drainage and/or redness and swelling near the surgical site
- Fever or chills, especially after surgery
- Muscle spasms
- Painful or difficult urination
- Incontinence of bowels and/or bladder
When is surgery recommended for a spine infection?
Nonsurgical treatment should be considered first using pain medication, intravenous or oral antibiotics, or monitoring, especially when patients have minimal or no neurological deficits and the risk of surgical intervention is high. Surgery may be recommended depending on the type of infection and if there is any deformity and/or instability in the spine. However, surgery may also be needed when any of the following situations occur:
- Significant bone destruction causing spinal deformity and/or instability
- Neurological impairment
- Sepsis with clinical toxicity caused by an abscess unresponsive to antibiotics
- To obtain cultures when a needle biopsy fails
- When intravenous antibiotics alone can’t remove the infection
With surgery, the goal is to achieve the following outcomes:
- Debride (clean and remove) the infected tissue
- Allow the infected tissue to receive adequate blood flow to help promote healing
- Restore the stability of the spine with the use of instrumentation to fuse the unstable spine
- Restore function or limit the degree of neurological impairment
The Brain & Spine Institute of North Houston offers the most advanced minimally invasive surgical techniques for the best outcomes when treating spine infections.
If you are in the North Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands, Spring area and believe you need to see a brain and spine specialist for a spine infection, call our office at 281-880-0700 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fayaz.