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Clinical Studies

Neurosurgical Management of Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebral Osteomyelitis and Discitis in Adults: A Review of 43 Consecutive Surgically Treated Patients

Rath, Stefan A. M.D.; Neff, Ulrich M.D.; Schneider, Ortwin M.D.; Richter, Hans-Peter M.D.

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WE REPORT 43 consecutive surgically treated patients with pyogenic (37 patients) and tuberculous (6 patients) osteomyelitis of the thoracic and lumbar spine encountered within an 8-year period, including 1 with late recurrence after 15 months. There were 24 men and 18 women, ranging in age from 21 to 83 years. Twenty-six patients were in poor general condition because of associated illnesses, especially diabetes mellitus. Disease occurred at the thoracic level in 19 patients and on the lumbar spine in 24. After diagnosis, five patients were merely treated by posterior decompression; three of them, however, required further surgery for recurrent infection, spinal instability, and secondary neurological impairment. They are included in the 40 patients who underwent combined posterior débridement and internal fixation with transpedicular screw-rod systems. Autologous interbody bone grafting was performed simultaneously in 18 patients and in a second stage operation in 21 patients. One of them (tuberculous) experienced early recurrence and required anterior fusion. In two patients, methylmethacrylate packing was used for spine reconstruction; one of them had a late recurrence. Of the 26 patients with preoperative marked or severe neurological deficit(Frankel Grades A, 2 patients; B, 1 patient; C, 17 patients; and D, 6 patients), 23 (88%) had significant improvement of one grade (15 patients) or more (8 patients). There were no permanent complications. However, intensive care treatment was necessary in 20 of the 26 patients in reduced general condition (mean age, 72 yr). Two patients required further surgery because of postoperative epidural hematoma and pedicle screw malpositioning. In conclusion, most patients with thoracic and lumbar osteomyelitis can be successfully treated by combined débridement and internal fixation using only a posterior approach. Autogenous interbody bone grafting can be simultaneously performed and allows early mobilization of the patient.

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