Another look at spinal tuberculosis

J Rheumatol. 1993 Oct;20(10):1731-40.


The steady decline in tuberculosis rates in Canada has led to a certain lack of awareness of the disease. We describe 7 patients with culture proven spinal tuberculosis, seen in a teaching hospital over a 10-year period. Persistent spinal pain and local tenderness were the most frequent presenting findings. There was a mean delay in diagnosis of 5.2 (range 1-18) months from the time of presentation. Only 2 patients had active extraspinal tuberculous infection. Plain spinal radiographs were the initial diagnostic procedure of choice showing a destructive vertebral lesion in 5 of 7 patients. Computed tomography (CT) played an important role in delineating the discovertebral lesion and in demonstrating a paraspinal soft tissue infection in 6 (85%) of 7 patients: psoas abscess in 4 (2 with epidural extension), epidural abscess in one, and a neck abscess in one. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in one patient enabled a more complete definition of the vertebral infection and its soft tissue extensions. Two patients were successfully treated with combination antituberculous chemotherapy alone, and 5 required adjuvant surgical procedures. Our study stresses the need for increased alertness to this now uncommon but treatable spinal infection, and emphasizes the diagnostic usefulness of CT and MRI in defining subtle discovertebral lesions and in detecting unsuspected paravertebral soft tissue extension.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnosis
  • Abscess / etiology
  • Abscess / therapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Tuberculosis, Spinal / complications
  • Tuberculosis, Spinal / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Spinal / therapy
  • Ultrasonography


  • Antitubercular Agents