Spondylodiscitis in paediatric patients: the importance of early diagnosis and prolonged therapy

Sonia Bianchini, Andrea Esposito, Nicola Principi, Susanna Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Spondylodiscitis (SD), the concurrent infection of a vertebral disc and the adjacent vertebral bodies, is a very severe disease that can lead to death or cause spinal deformities, segmental instabilities, and chronic pain, which significantly reduces the quality of life for affected patients. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in order to reduce the risk of negative outcomes. The two cases of SD that are described in this paper might be useful for informing paediatric approaches to children with SD. Case presentation: The cases that are reported here are about two children of approximately 2 and 3 years of age, in whom SD involving the L4–L5 and L3–L4 interspaces, had a subacute or chronic course. The clinical manifestations were mild, fever was absent, and the lumbar pain lasted for a long time and was the predominant symptom. Moreover, laboratory tests were in the normal range or only slightly abnormal, as were the standard radiographs of the lumbar spine. In both of the cases, SD confirmation was obtained through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and MRI was also used to evaluate the response to therapy. In both of our patients, tuberculosis was excluded based on tuberculin skin testing and the Quantiferon TBgold tests being negative. This finding led to the prescription of a broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy, including a drug that was potentially effective against Staphylococcus aureus (Sa). The strict monitoring of the spinal damage with MRI avoided the need for aspirations or biopsies; invasive procedures that are ethically acceptable in pediatric age only in a few selected cases, when the empirical antibiotic is associated with a worsening of spinal damage; or the vertebral osteomyelitis lesion mimics a tumoral lesion. Conclusions: Although rare, SD represents an important disease in children. In toddlers and preschool children, it can have a subacute or chronic course, in which only back pain, irritability, and walking difficulties are the signs and symptoms of the disease. MRI remains the best method for confirming the diagnosis and for evaluating therapy efficacy. Antibiotics are the drugs of choice. Although the duration has not been established, antibiotics should be administered for several weeks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1195
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 7 2018


  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Osteo-articular infections
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Spondylodiscitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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