Cervical osteomyelitis: a brief review

Neurosurg Focus. 2004 Dec 15;17(6):E11. doi: 10.3171/foc.2004.17.6.11.


Object: The authors conducted a literature-based review of the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical vertebral osteomyelitis (CVO).

Methods: A Medline (PubMed) search using the key words "cervical vertebral osteomyelitis" yielded 256 articles. These were further screened for relevance, yielding 15 articles. Each publication was reviewed, and several others not identified in the PubMed search were screened and included in the review according to relevance. Each article was identified as involving either the epidemiology/etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of CVO. Separate categories were created for case reports and general reviews.

Conclusions: Cervical vertebral osteomyelitis has a spectrum of origins, which include spontaneous, postoperative, traumatic, and hematogenously spread causes. The majority of patients have medical risk factors and comorbidities that include diabetes, trauma, drug abuse, and infectious processes in extraspinal areas. The diagnosis of CVO can be accomplished in most cases by using plain x-ray films and computerized tomography scans. Nevertheless, preferential use of magnetic resonance imaging in cases in which there is a neurological deficit is helpful in identifying epidural compressive processes. Treatment for CVO can be successfully initiated with intravenous antibiotic therapy. Nevertheless, in cases in which there is a neurological deficit, spinal deformity and/or progressive lysis, or intractable pain, the earliest feasible surgical intervention with debridement and fusion is warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / surgery*
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*