Infections of the spine are particularly challenging to orthopaedists because they often present emergently, can be difficult to diagnose precisely, and can have catastrophic or fatal outcomes if not treated effectively.The September 23, 2015 “Case Connections” from JBJS Case Connector discusses five cases of rare but serious spinal infections.
The “Case Connections” springboards from a September 9, 2015 JBJS Case Connector case report by Rosinsky et al. that describes a sixty-five-year-old man who presented with fever and intractable lumbar pain that radiated to his right leg. In this case, a methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) infection had formed a large lobulated epidural abscess at L4-S1, with paraspinal muscle and intradural extension. One year after an L3-S1 laminectomy and two follow-up surgeries to treat hematomas and repair dural perforations, the patient was neurologically intact and walking independently.
The Rosinsky et al. case and the three other relevant “connections” from the JBJS Case Connector archive emphasize that prompt, definitive diagnosis and treatment of spinal infections–and enlisting the expertise of infectious-disease specialists–can lead to positive outcomes, while delay and clinical confusion can end catastrophically or fatally.