Infections Of The Spine: Types, Symptoms, And Treatments

Posted On May 11, 2023

4 Min Read

Dr. S Vidyadhara

Chairman and HOD - Spine surgery and Consultant - Robotic Spine Surgery

Manipal Hospitals - Old Airport Road - Bengaluru

Spine Infections treatment in Old Airport Road

Infections of the spine are rare, but if not treated timely, they can cause severe damage. Soft disks between each vertebra (small bones forming the backbone) and the soft tissues around the spine can be affected by various infections. Spine infections differ in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Visit a top hospital for spine infection treatment in Old Airport Road in case you are experiencing any of the spine infections discussed here. 

Learn about spine infections, their treatment, the benefits of that treatment, and the risks associated with treatment.

What are Infections of the Spine?

A spinal infection occurs when bacteria or fungi infect your spine or backbone. There are different types of spinal infections, each causing various symptoms. Listed below are the types of spinal infections:

  • Osteomyelitis

Adults commonly suffer from osteomyelitis, which affects the vertebrae, and the intervertebral discs, which are present between the vertebrae. Backbone pain worsens at night in osteomyelitis and does not subside with time. Symptoms of this condition may include discomfort and stiffness in your limbs if it compresses your spinal cord.

  • Discitis

An inflammation of your intervertebral disc space causes discitis. Osteomyelitis and discitis are both believed to be related diseases.

Discitis may occur on its own or by any surgical infections. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is the most common cause, but other bacteria, such as Streptococcus, can also cause this discitis infection. You can develop discitis if a urinary tract infection or pneumonia infects your bloodstream. ‌

A discitis patient may experience fevers, radiating pain throughout their bodies, and chills with spinal movements. Young children and teens can suffer from discitis, as well. People with Discitis usually have diabetes mellitus. Discitis can lead to several complications:

  • Spinal tumours

  • Disc herniation

  • Muscle or tendon injuries

  • Epidural Abscess

The term epidural abscess refers to an infection that can occur between the bones of the spine, the skull, or soft tissues enclosing the brain and spinal cord. In up to 18% of cases, it occurs alongside vertebral osteomyelitis or discitis. 

There are several symptoms associated with epidural abscess, including:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Inflammation and swelling.

  • Mid to lower back pain.

  • Neurological deficits (e.g., weakness or numbness in the legs and arms, bladder or bowel incontinence).

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • Meningitis

Meningitis can lead to many complications without proper treatment or timely diagnosis. Your brain and spine may swell due to this disease, which causes the swelling of the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord. ‌

Infectious meningitis is caused by the invasion of a pathogen in the meninges. On the other hand, non-infectious meningitis is caused by underlying diseases or injuries. Patients with meningitis suffer from fever and muscle pain. Listed below are some of the symptoms of meningitis:

  • Fever

  • Headache‌

  • Neck stiffness

If the brain tissue itself is affected, you may have the following:

  • Seizures

  • A neurological impairment that can affect your speaking and moving ability.

  • Delirium

Steps Involved in Spinal Infections Treatment

When there are no or minimal neurological deficits, and surgical intervention is associated with a high morbidity and mortality rate, the doctors usually consider non-surgical treatment first. 
It is, however, necessary to perform surgery in some cases when:

  • A significant amount of bone destruction causes spinal instability.

  • Deficits in the neurological system.

  • If it causes sepsis, cannot be treated with oral antibiotics, or involves a substantial amount of bone. 

  • Inability to obtain cultures from the needle biopsy.

  • A failure to eradicate the infection with intravenous antibiotics.

Advantages of Spinal Infection Surgery

The following are the benefits of spinal infection surgery:

  • Surgeons will remove the infected tissue by debriding (cleaning and removing it).

  • Promote healing by providing adequate blood flow to the infected tissues.

  • By fusing the unstable spine with instrumentation, the doctors restore spinal stability.

  • Restore function or limit the extent of neurological impairment.

Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can invade spinal tissues to cause a spinal infection, a rare but often severe condition. Surgical and non-surgical treatments are available for spinal infections, and long-term intravenous antibiotic involves prolonged hospitalization as a non-surgical treatment option. In cases where non-surgical treatment fails, experts at Manipal Hospital, Mysore, may conduct surgery to clean and remove the affected tissue, restore spinal stability and limit neurological damage. 

Consult a spine surgeon in Old Airport Road for diagnosis and treatment for all types of spine infections. 


  • What are the common types of spinal infections?

Primary pyogenic spondylodiscitis is the most common spinal infection caused by a bacterial microorganism. 

  • What is the recovery period for a spinal infection?

You can recover from a spinal infection in up to six months with proper treatment.

  • What happens when an infection reaches your spine?

If left untreated, spinal infections can lead to paralysis or even death.