Spine Infections: A rare but serious condition

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Trust the Center for Orthopedic and Surgical Infectious Disease

Spine infections are a rare but often serious condition. Also called vertebral osteomyelitis, spine infections are most commonly seen in senior populations and after a surgical procedure. A spine infection can include the vertebrae, spinal discs, meninges, spinal canal; even the spinal cord. Occurring in about 1-4% of cases, most postoperative spine infections occur between three days and three months after surgery.

Dr. Serge Lartchenko is Dallas’ trusted expert for treating orthopedic and surgical site infections. At the Center for Orthopedic and Surgical Infectious Disease at Texas Infectious Disease Institute, he helps many individuals dealing with this unfortunate and painful situation that can sometimes arise after spine surgery.

What are the Risk Factors for Developing a Spine Infection After Surgery?

Technically, anyone who has spine surgery is at risk of developing a surgical site infection, but there are some factors that increase your risk, including:

  • Surgeries of long duration
  • High blood loss
  • Multiple surgeries at the same site
  • Implantation of instrumentation (screws, plates, other surgical hardware)

Other risk factors unrelated to surgery itself include advanced age, having had organ transplantation, health conditions like diabetes, cancer and HIV, smoking, intravenous drug use and long-term, systematic use of steroids.

How Do You Know if You Have an Infection After Spine Surgery?

Spine surgery infection symptoms can vary depending on the type of spinal infection, but in most cases, pain is localized initially at the site of the infection. Additional symptoms may be present, including:

  • Redness, swelling and tenderness near the incision site
  • Wound drainage that is cloudy
  • Back pain
  • Fever and chills

If you experience any of these symptoms of spine infection, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the infection from progressing and may limit the degree of intervention required to treat it. Delaying care could cause irreversible damage to the bony and soft tissue structures of and around the spine.

Are Spinal Infections Serious?

Spinal infections certainly can become serious. They are the most dangerous bone infection because complications can have cascading effects on the whole body. Not only is there a serious risk of the infection spreading, but the infection can also shut down systems within the spine. Quick action is needed to treat spinal infections effectively. While rare, untreated bone infections may cause neurologic compromise.

This is a problem because many people assume their symptoms are from the surgery itself and, therefore, don’t seek treatment until the symptoms become debilitating. If not identified and addressed effectively by a surgical site infection specialist, spine surgery infections can worsen, lead to more surgeries and other complications.

How are Spine Infections Treated?

At the Center for Orthopedic and Surgical Infectious Disease, we combine a number of methods to provide some of the most effective non-surgical treatment options available for spine infections.

Since these types of infections are among the most difficult to treat, they require the attention of an infectious disease specialist like Dr. Lartchenko. His expertise and experience allow us to offer specialized antibiotic treatments, beyond what you could receive at a primary care practice. Our combination of intravenous treatments administered in the comfort of our in-house infusion suite, antibiotic combination therapy and expert diagnosis make Texas Infectious Disease Institute a premier choice for the treatment of difficult infections.

In rare cases, if aggressive antibiotic combination therapy is not sufficient to eradicate the infection, surgery may be required. But our goal at Texas Infectious Disease Institute is to provide treatment options that mitigate the need for surgery whenever possible.

Meet the Team Fully Dedicated to Your Care

At the Center for Orthopedic and Surgical Infectious Disease at Texas Infectious Disease Institute in Dallas, you will find an experienced team that cares deeply about finding the right diagnosis and treatment for you, whether you are referred to us for a prolonged fever of unknown origin or for a more complex infectious disease. With comprehensive diagnostic tests and services available in one convenient location, Dr. Serge Lartchenko and his team are able to diagnose, treat and provide long-term management for a range of conditions. We’d be honored to serve you.