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Spinal Infections


iv drip with a patient with Spinal Infections

Spinal infections are rare but often very serious conditions that occur when bacteria, viruses, or fungi invade the spinal tissue and attack the spine and can wreak serious havoc. For example, if spinal discs become inflamed, they may start to break down or even decay. Likewise, if the vertebrae also become infected, the bones that form your spinal column can crack or fracture.


Other issues linked to spinal infections include nerve pain and the buildup of pus, known as an abscess. Besides being extremely painful, an abscess can place pressure on your spinal cord, which can lead to nerve pain, muscle weakness, and sometimes even paralysis.


Symptoms vary depending on the type of spinal infection but, generally speaking, symptoms can include:

  • Severe back pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle spasms
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Weakness and/or numbness of arms or legs
  • Incontinence of bowels and/or bladder
  • Weakness of voluntary muscles and bowel/bladder dysfunction
  • Paralysis


Spinal infections often require intravenous antibiotic or antifungal therapy combined with bracing to support your spine as it heals. This type of nonsurgical treatment is often sufficient to help patients recover. Nonsurgical treatment is typically considered before surgery.


However, surgery may be indicated when any of the following situations are present:

  • Significant bone destruction causing spinal instability
  • Neurological deficits
  • Sepsis with clinical toxicity caused by an abscess unresponsive to antibiotics
  • Failure of needle biopsy to obtain needed cultures
  • Failure of intravenous antibiotics alone to eradicate the infection

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