Spinal tuberculosis: A diagnostic and management challenge

E. S. Nussbaum, G. L. Rockswold, T. A. Bergman, D. L. Erickson, E. L. Seljeskog

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234 Scopus citations


The authors reviewed 29 cases of spinal tuberculosis treated from 1973 to 1993 with an average follow-up time of 7.4 years. Clinical findings included back pain, paraparesis, kyphosis, fever, sensory disturbance, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. Twenty-two patients (76%) presented with neurological deficit; 12 (41%) were initially misdiagnosed. Sixteen patients (55%) had predominant vertebral body involvement; nine had marked bone collapse with neurological compromise. Eleven individuals (39%) had intraspinal granulomatous tissue causing neurological dysfunction in the absence of bone destruction, and two (7%) had intramedullary tuberculomas. All patients received antituberculous medications: 13 were initially treated with bracing alone, eight underwent laminectomy and debridement of extra- or intradural granulomatous tissue, and eight underwent anterior, posterior, or combined fusion procedures. No patient with neurological deficit recovered or stabilized with nonoperative management. Thirteen patients were readmitted with progression of inadequately treated osteomyelitis; 12 (92%) of these required new or more radical fusion procedures. Anterior fusion failure was associated with marked preoperative kyphosis and multilevel disease requiring a graft that spanned more than two disc spaces. Courses of antibiotic medications shorter than 6 months were invariably associated with disease recurrence. It was concluded that 1) patients should receive at least 12 months of appropriate antituberculous therapy; 2) individuals with neurological deficit should undergo surgical decompression; 3) laminectomy and debridement are adequate for intraspinal granulomatous tissue in the absence of significant hone destruction; 4) when vertebral body involvement has produced wedging and kyphosis, aggressive debridement and fusion are indicated to prevent delayed instability and progression of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-247
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995


  • Pott's disease
  • osteomyelitis
  • spinal tuberculosis
  • tuberculous spondylitis


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