Spinal Infection

Spinal infections are rare but very debilitating, severely affecting the bones, nerves and tissues of the back, including the spinal cord, discs, facet joints and vertebrae. These typically result from bacterial, fungal or viral infections that have spread from other organs to the spine through the bloodstream.

They may also occur directly from penetrating injuries, or after medical procedures such as surgery, injections or in some cases, intravenous drug abuse.

In Singapore, accepted treatment for lower back pain caused by spinal infections range from medications to spine surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.


What are the Common Types of Spinal Infections?

There are different types of spinal infections, and they vary according to the location of the infection and its symptoms. The most common types of spinal infections are:

  • Vertebral or Spinal Osteomyelitis
    This refers to the infection of the lumbar spine bony elements caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus. Tuberculosis is another well-known pathogen that causes this. Symptoms include back pain, painful, limited or lost of range of movement in the arm or leg, muscle spasms, fever, tenderness and swelling in the site of infection.
  • Discitis
    This results when bacterial infection affects the discs in the spine. This typically causes pain that is made worse by a change in posture, pain during spinal movements, back pain when straining or loading the back, and commonly presents with fever.
  • Spinal Epidural Abscess
    Occurring in the spinal canal, which is the space where the spinal cord and the neural elements reside, this condition refers to the collection of pus in the epidural space, which causes spinal cord and/or nerve compression. Symptoms may include spine pain, headache, fever, weakness, paralysis or even incontinence.
  • Paraspinal/Psoas Abscess
    This occurs when the infection affects the surrounding spinal musculature, and may drain down the psoas muscle that leads from the spine down the hips, causing pain in the hips that actually originate from the spine. This is a case where spine pain can mimic hip pain.

These conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated, and can negatively impact one’s quality of life. Spine surgery in Singapore is commonly performed for more severe and/or chronic cases.


Spinal Infection Risk Factors

Spinal infections may occur spontaneously, especially for patients who are at high risk. Risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Poor diet, nutrition and lifestyle
  • Drug abuse
  • Obesity
  • Weak or suppressed immune system due to smoking, steroid abuse and diseases
  • Illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS

Those who have undergone previous major spine surgery to treat a spinal condition like sciatica are also at a higher risk of developing spinal infections.


How are Spinal Infections Treated?

Treatment for spinal infections depend mainly on its cause and severity. If the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, then oral or intravenous antibiotics will be administered. Braces or spinal immobilization techniques may also be applied in order to maintain stability to the spine.

In Singapore, spine surgery may not be immediately warranted unless it is deemed necessary to remove the infected tissues, clean and further disinfect the area, and decompress the neural elements or stabilize the spine. Surgical stabilization typically would require spinal fusion techniques to ensure good healing and outcomes. A spine surgeon should be consulted for a proper opinion regarding the need for spine surgery when it comes to spine infections.


Singapore Clinic for Spinal Infections Treatment

Atlas Orthopaedic Group is your one-stop orthopaedic center that provides effective and established procedures for the treatment of spinal infections.

Dr Chua Soo Yong is committed to providing patients with patient-centric and high quality management of spinal conditions. To learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, call 6262-0555 today.