Diagnostic pitfalls in osteomyelitis of the odontoid process: case report

Surg Neurol. 2000 Jun;53(6):573-8; discussion 578-9. doi: 10.1016/s0090-3019(00)00239-1.


Background: Pyogenic osteomyelitis of the odontoid process is a very rare disease associated with a variety of clinical symptoms, and previous reports have stressed the difficulties inherent in making the diagnosis. The authors present a case of osteomyelitis of the odontoid process with epidural abscess in which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used in the diagnosis, assessment of the extent of concomitant epidural abscess, treatment effect, and long-term follow-up.

Case description: A 68-year-old male was admitted to our hospital with cervical pain, neck stiffness, and fever. Although the diagnosis was missed at the beginning, the patient was diagnosed with osteomyelitis of the odontoid process with a paravertebral epidural abscess by MRI. The patient became asymptomatic after 3 months of antibiotic therapy.

Conclusion: Pyogenic osteomyelitis of the odontoid process is a rare condition requiring a high index of suspicion for diagnosis. MRI examination should be considered in the diagnosis in patients with neck pain combined with fever. Serial MRI during and after antibiotic therapy provided an objective assessment of the healing rate of the lesions.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Odontoid Process / diagnostic imaging*
  • Odontoid Process / microbiology
  • Odontoid Process / pathology*
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis*
  • Osteomyelitis / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / complications
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed