Comprehensive Care for Spinal Infections

University Hospitals offers comprehensive care and multidisciplinary team approach for spinal infections. As one of only 20 orthopaedic programs in the U.S. to be designated a Center of Excellence by the National Spine Institute, our spine specialists are highly trained and experienced in spine infections.

We work with multiple other medical specialties to find the cause and design the most effective spinal infection treatment course for you and your condition.

Although they are rare, an infection of the spine occurs and needs immediate attention from a skilled spine team. In most cases, these infections are bacterial and travel to the spine through the bloodstream. Often times, E. coli bacteria or staphylococcus contribute to this condition.

In many cases, the symptoms of a spinal infection remain unnoticed until the condition has advanced. The most common symptoms of spinal infections include:

  • Bowel and bladder incontinence
  • Fever
  • Back pain that becomes worse with movement or doesn’t respond to rest or pain medications
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs

While most of these symptoms could be due to many other health conditions, they should receive medical attention.

Recognizing Risk Factors for Spinal Infections

Since spine infections do not occur often, it’s important to understand the risk factors of this condition. A spinal infection is usually seen in senior citizens, patients with weak immune systems or intravenous drug users. The following factors may also contribute to an infection in the spine:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Steroid use

UH spine specialists will perform a physical evaluation, medical history and talk with you about your spinal infection symptoms to help determine its exact cause.

Precise Diagnosis of Spinal Infections

If you show any symptoms of a spinal infection, our spine specialists will use various imaging tests to pinpoint the location and extent of the infection. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can detect the type of bacteria causing the infection.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans: CT scans are a series of X-ray images that are taken from different angles that can provide a detailed view of your spine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Through the use of magnetic field and radio waves, MRIs offer a non-invasive way of evaluating the anatomy of your spine.

Effective Treatments for Even the Most Advanced Spinal Infection

Spinal infections are usually treated with a combination of conservative treatments including:

  • Antibiotic medications: Long-term intravenous antibiotics are the most common treatment for spinal infections and take six to eight weeks to show effectiveness.
  • Bracing: A brace can assist in pain relief and improve the stability of your spine while the infection heals.

If your infection does not respond to antibiotics or bracing, surgery may be necessary. It can treat your infection, improve pain and relieve any neurologic compression you may be experiencing.

The most common surgical procedure for spinal infection performed by our highly trained and experienced surgeons involves removing the infected tissue. A minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery to fuse together the two dysfunctional vertebrae may be an option as well.

Contact University Hospitals Spine Specialists

Since spinal infections can lead to long-term spine damage and chronic or debilitating back pain, so contact one of our spine specialists today if you have a concern. We can help you schedule an appointment at a convenient location by calling at 216-286-8888.