Antonio Rivas-Garcia, Silvana Sarria-Estrada, Carme Torrents-Odin, Lourdes Casas-Gomila, Elisa Franquet

June 2013, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 567 - 578 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-012-2333-9

First Online: 09 June 2012

Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be an important public health problem in developed countries especially in deprived socioeconomic groups, older people, immunocompromised patients, drug-therapy resistant cases and the immigrant population. The spine is the most frequent location of musculoskeletal TB. The wide range of clinical presentations results in difficulties and delays in diagnosis. Advanced disease mimics other infections and malignancy. The diagnosis of spinal infections relies on three main factors: clinical symptoms, imaging and bacteriological culture. Advanced imaging such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) and Fluor18-Deoxiglucose Positron Emission Tomography combined with CT (F-18 FDG PET–CT) demonstrate lesion extent, serve as guide for biopsy with aspiration for culture, assist surgery planning and contribute to follow-up. Diagnosis of TB cannot be established solely on the basis of clinical tests or imaging findings and biopsy may be required. Differential diagnosis between tuberculous and pyogenic spondylitis is of clinical importance, but may be difficult on the basis of radiological findings alone. Findings not pathognomonic but favoring tuberculous etiology include: slow progression of lesions with late preservation of disk space, involvement of several contiguous segments, large intraosseous and paraspinal abscesses containing calcifications, and body collapse with kyphotic deformity. In this essay the highlights of TB imaging are reviewed through published literature. In addition, we review retrospectively the radiological findings of 48 patients with tuberculous spondylitis treated from 1993 to 2010. There were 23 male and 25 female patients with a mean age of 53 years.

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