Keeping spinal tuberculosis at bay

Early diagnosis followed by adequate treatment can completely cure spinal tuberculosis   | Photo Credit: mail pic

When as a spine surgeon I told one of my patients that she was suffering from tuberculosis, she freaked out and argued, “Are you kidding me doc? Tuberculosis is related to lungs and you are a spine doctor.”

Actually yes, most of the people still associate tuberculosis with lungs only. But there is one more kind of tuberculosis i.e. spinal tuberculosis about which there is relatively less awareness.

So the case goes like this. She had been suffering from acute back pain, fever, night sweats and anorexia since the past few weeks. Moreover she was facing significant weight loss, pain and stiffness in the limbs. Condition was getting worse as she started facing problems even while sitting and walking. Identifying it as the preliminary symptoms of spinal tuberculosis, I decided to conduct CT scans, MRI scans, a test of enthrocyte sedimentation rate and tuberculin skin test. The results were kyphotic deformity i.e. narrowing of vertebra which results in collapsed spine.

It is not only she but daily I meet three-four patients with similar complaints. Spinal tuberculosis has become very common these days. But people are not aware about it and neglect the symptoms associated with it.

Spinal tuberculosis, also known as Pott’s disease, is a condition in which the vertebrae gets infected with tuberculosis

It is caused by mycobacterium which is spread by the way of blood or breathing droplets from an infected person in your lungs. Now this bacterium due to weak immune system will thrive and grow and reach the blood stream. From here it can infect a number of organs including the spine. Spinal tuberculosis can lead to spinal cord compression, which can further cause certain neurological problems. It can affect nerves and degrade sensations. It can result in paresis (weakness in voluntary movement), paraplegia (impairment in motor or sensory functions) and kyphosis (exaggerated rounding of back).

So now the question arises what are the possible treatments? Well, various operational treatments are available which includes surgical decompression of spine. Also non-operational treatments like draining of infected areas and immobilisation of spine for proper cure can be followed. One should take a diet rich in protein. Regular physiotherapy can also prove beneficial. The sooner the problem is detected, the better for patients. Negligence can lead to humped back, distorted posture and permanent paralysis.

Early diagnosis followed by adequate treatment can completely cure spinal tuberculosis. Anti-tuberculosis medication and corrective surgeries are viable treatment options. Advanced surgery options are quite safe and results have been encouraging.

(Dr. Sudeep Jain is Chief Spine Surgeon, Spine Solutions India, Naraina Vihar and MGS Hospital, New Delhi.)

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 8:34:56 PM |

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