Discitis in young children

J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2001 Jan;83(1):106-11. doi: 10.1302/0301-620x.83b1.10865.


Discitis is uncommon in children and presents in different ways at different ages. It is most difficult to diagnose in the uncommunicative toddler of one to three years of age. We present 11 consecutive cases. The non-specific clinical features included refusal to walk (63%), back pain (27%), inability to flex the lower back (50%) and a loss of lumbar lordosis (40%). Laboratory tests were unhelpful and cultures of blood and disc tissue were negative. MRI reduces the diagnostic delay and may help to avoid the requirement for a biopsy. In 75% of cases it demonstrated a paravertebral inflammatory mass, which helped to determine the duration of the oral therapy given after initial intravenous antibiotics. At a mean follow-up of 21 months (10 to 40), all the spines were mobile and the patients free from pain. Radiological fusion occurred in 20% and was predictable after two years. At follow-up, MRI showed variable appearances: changes in the vertebral body usually resolved at 24 months and recovery of the disc was seen after 34 months.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Discitis / diagnosis*
  • Discitis / drug therapy
  • Discitis / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Sacrum / pathology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents