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High Prevalence of Multifocal Spine Infections Involving the Cervical and Thoracic Regions: A Case for Imaging the Entire Spine

Balcescu C, Odeh K, Rosinski A, Wang J, Prasad P, Leasure J, Ungurean V, Kondrashov D.

Dec 1, 2019

Neurospine. 2019 Dec;16(4):756-763. doi: 10.14245/ns.1836296.148. Epub 2019 Jul 8.


Objective: Pyogenic spinal infections account for 2%-4% of orthopaedic infections. They are often difficult to diagnose, resulting in a delay in diagnosis. Risk factors for orthopaedic and spinal infection are well-documented in the literature, yet there is a paucity of studies examining risk factors specifically for multifocal spinal infections. The objective of this study was to identify predictors of multifocal spinal infections in comparison to unifocal spinal infections.

Methods: The medical records, imaging studies, and bacteriology data of 20 patients treated surgically for pyogenic spinal infection over 6 years at a tertiary referral center were reviewed and analyzed after receiving Institutional Review Board approval. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify factors associated with a multifocal spinal infection.

Results: Seven patients (35%) had multifocal infections. Three were bifocal, and 4 were trifocal. Patients with surgically treated cervical or thoracic spinal infections had a high rate of concomitant multifocal spinal infections (71% and 83%, respectively). Other potential predictors (e.g., patient age, body mass index, magnetic resonance image findings, etc.) did not reach statistical significance. Each of the multifocal infections involved the lumbar spine.

Conclusion: In this study, the spinal region was the only statistically significant risk factor for multifocal infection. Patients who are diagnosed with a spinal infection that requires operative treatment should have their entire spine evaluated with magnetic resonance imaging to detect multifocal involvement promptly.

Keywords: Abscess; Multifocal infection; Osteomyelitis; Spinal infection; Unifocal infection.

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