Infections after spinal correction and fusion for spinal deformities in childhood and adolescence

Int Orthop. 2012 Feb;36(2):465-9. doi: 10.1007/s00264-011-1439-8. Epub 2011 Dec 11.


Background: Infection after spinal fusion for scoliosis is a commonly reported complication. Although techniques in paediatric spinal fusion have improved with regard to infection prophylaxis, postoperative infection rates range from 0.4% to 8.7%.

Infection rates and causative factors: The rate of infection in surgery for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) has ranged from 0.9% to 3%. The rate of infection in spinal surgery for deformity related to myelomeningocele has been reported to be from 8% to 24%. The rate of infection in spinal surgery for deformity related to cerebral palsy has been reported to be from 6.1% to 8.7%. Infection after spinal fusion for scoliosis related to a muscular dystrophy is generally less frequent. Despite a large number of cases and studies, the literature did not provide documentation of several factors that may be related to the occurrence of wound infection. The rate of wound infection after spine surgery is dependent on many factors, including the complexity of the procedure, health status of the patient, and potentially the experience and technique of the operating surgeon.

Treatment algorithm: The general algorithm for treatment depends on a variety of factors, including the delay from the index procedure, the infecting organism, the location and extent of the infection, the gross appearance of the fusion mass, and the surgical strategy used to correct the initial deformity. For infections that develop within the first 90 days after the index procedure all attempts to retain the instrumentation should be made. In late infections, the fusion mass must be carefully inspected before instrumentation removal is considered. Although fusion may appear to be solid both radiographically and intra-operatively, there still may be the possibility of loss of correction at last follow-up.

Conclusion: Deep wound infection after instrumented fusion of the spine remains a difficult and challenging clinical problem and entails substantial morbidity, cost, and recovery time for the patient. An aggressive approach to deep wound infection emphasising early irrigation and debridement allowed preservation of instrumentation and successful fusion in most cases. At the conclusion of treatment, patients can expect a medium-term clinical outcome similar to patients in whom infectious complication did not occur.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Scoliosis / surgery
  • Spinal Curvatures / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology*