Nontuberculous pyogenic spinal infection in adults: A 12-year experience from a tertiary referral center

Joseph S. Butler, Martin J. Shelly, Marcus Timlin, William G. Powderly, John M. O'Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN. We performed a retrospective review of 48 cases of pyogenic spinal infection presenting over a 12-year period to the National Spinal Injuries Unit (NSIU) of the Republic of Ireland. The NSIU is the tertiary referral center for all adult spinal injuries and diseases of the spine warranting surgical intervention in the Republic of Ireland. OBJECTIVES. The objective of this study was to analyze the presentation, etiology, management, and outcome of nontuberculous pyogenic spinal infection in adults. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. Pyogenic spinal infection encompasses a broad range of clinical entities, including spondylodiscitis, septic discitis, vertebral osteomyelitis, and epidural abscess. Management of pyogenic spinal infection can involve conservative methods and surgical intervention. METHODS. The medical records, radiologic imaging, and bacteriology results of 48 patients with pyogenic vertebral osteomyelitis from 1992 through 2004 were reviewed. The Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE) System and the NSIU Database were used to identify our study cohort. RESULTS. The average age of presentation was 59 years with an even distribution between males and females. Most patients (21 of 48) were symptomatic for between 2 and 6 weeks before presenting to hospital. The most frequently isolated pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus, in 23 of 48 cases (48%); 35 of 48 cases (73%) were managed by conservative measures alone, including antibiotic therapy and spinal bracing. However, in 13 of 48 cases (27%), surgical intervention was required because of neurologic compromise or mechanical instability. CONCLUSIONS. In the majority of cases, conservative management of pyogenic spinal infection with antibiotic therapy and spinal bracing is very successful. However, in a minority of cases, surgical intervention is warranted and referral to a specialist center is appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2695-2700
Number of pages6
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006


  • Epidural abscess
  • Pyogenic spinal infection
  • Septic discitis
  • Vertebral osteomyelitis


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