A 15-year clinical follow-up of tuberculous lesions of the lumbosacral region.
To verify the hypothesis that the lumbar lordosis and the specific biomechanics of the lumbosacral region influence and alter the healing pattern and progress of the disease when compared with their effects in other regions of the spine.
An estimated 2 million or more patients have active spinal tuberculosis, and the global incidence of the disease is increasing. The involvement of the lower lumbar region and the lumbosacral junction is relatively rare, with few reports in English literature.
Of a total of 304 patients forming a part of a controlled clinical trial comparing two forms of therapy in spinal tuberculosis, 53 patients had involvement of L3 and below. The following data were studied in these patients: age at start of treatment, number of vertebra involved, vertebral body loss, progress of the angle of kyphosis, and anterior and posterior growth of the involved segment during a period of 15 years. Student's t test for independent samples was used for statistical analysis.
The fourth lumbar vertebra was the most common vertebral segment involved, and the lumbosacral junction was affected in 12 patients. The average pretreatment kyphosis was 6.4° and increased to 10.2° at the end of 15 years. The average kyphotic angle per vertebral body loss was 4.9°, far less than in the dorsolumbar region in which kyphotic angles of 27-30° have been reported. Children younger than 10 years old differed in clinical appearance and progress compared with those older than 17 years. They not only showed more extensive involvement but also had more deformity with the same vertebral loss. Twelve patients less than 10 years old had an average involvement of 3.1 vertebral bodies and an average vertebral loss of 2.2 bodies. In comparison, the average number of vertebrae involved was 1.9 (P < 0.01) and the vertebral body loss was only 0.87 (P < 0.01) in patients older than 17 years. Also, the average kyphosis was 6.4° compared with only 4.2° (P < 0.01) in adults. In patients older than 17 years, there was no change after 2 years, by which time the collapse was complete. Four of 12 patients less than 10 years old, showed progressive kyphosis caused by continued growth of posterior parts of the body (i.e., sequestrated hemivertebrae).
In tuberculosis of the lumbosacral region, the development of kyphosis is minimal in patients older than 17 years, when growth has already stopped, and deformity is expressed more as foreshortening of the trunk. Children younger than 10 years old have more severe involvement with increased tendency toward greater kyphosis. They are also prone to progressive deformity through the years when the anterior growth plates are destroyed. Surgery is indicated in this group to prevent greater deformity.
From the *Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Ganga Medical Centre and Hospitals, Coimbatore; and the †Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chetpet, Madras India.
Acknowledgment date: May 23, 1997.
Acceptance date: October 22, 1997.
Device status category: 1.
Address reprint requests to: S. Rajasekaran; Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon; Ganga Medical Centre and Hospitals; Swarnambika Layout, Ramnagar; Coimbatore - 641 009; India.