Objective: To identify clinical characteristics associated with pyogenic spinal infection among adults presenting to a community emergency department (ED) with neck or back pain. A secondary objective was to describe the frequency of these characteristics among patients with spinal epidural abscess (SEA).
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study in a community ED enrolling adults with neck or back pain in whom the ED provider had clinical concern for pyogenic spinal infection. Study phase 1 (Jan 2004-Mar 2010) included patients with and without pyogenic spinal infection. Phase 2 (Apr 2010-Aug 2018) included only patients with pyogenic spinal infection. We performed univariate and multivariate analyses for association of clinical characteristics with pyogenic spinal infection.
Results: We enrolled 232 and analyzed 223 patients, 89 of whom had pyogenic spinal infection. The median age was 55 years and 102 patients (45.7%) were male. The clinical characteristics associated with pyogenic spinal infection on multivariate analysis of study phase 1 included recent soft tissue infection or bacteremia (OR 13.5, 95% CI 3.6 to 50.7), male sex (OR 5.0, 95% CI 2.5 to 10.0), and fever in the ED or prior to arrival (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.3 to 6.0). Among patients with SEA (n = 61), 49 (80.3%) had at least one historical risk factor, 12 (19.7%) had fever in the ED, and 8 (13.1%) had a history of intravenous drug use.
Conclusion: Male sex, fever, and recent soft tissue infection or bacteremia were associated with pyogenic spinal infection in this prospective ED cohort.
Keywords: Back pain; Pyogenic spinal infection; Spinal epidural abscess; Spondylodiscitis; Vertebral osteomyelitis.
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