Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Diskitis is the infection or inflammation of the disk betweentwo vertebrae.

What is going on in the body?

The spine consists of bony structures called vertebraestacked one on top of another. Vertebrae are separated by disks,which are plate-like bodies made up of cartilage. These disks act as shock-absorbingcushions. In diskitis, the disk becomes infected or inflamed, latercausing destruction of the adjoining vertebral bone. Diskitis usuallyaffects children ranging from toddlers to adolescents. The most commonpart of the spine involved is the lower back.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Diskitis is caused when an infection in another part of thebody, particularly the pelvic area, spreads through the blood stream tothe spine. Bacteria are found in less than half of cases. Other cases arethought to be viral or inflammatory. In rare cases, such as intuberculosis,infection may spread from bone to disk, which is the reverse order of the spreadin diskitis.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

The main symptom is pain. The toddler may refuse to walkor may lean forward when walking, sometimes with the hands on thethighs to support the back. Getting up from the floor may also be hard.

Signs include a temperature ranging from normal to low-gradefever,depending on the type of infection. It may also be hard for the child toraise a leg straight up while lying on his or her back.

Diagnosis & Tests

How is the disease diagnosed?

A doctor may suspect diskitis based on the symptoms and signsabove, but diagnosis is often not easy. Blood tests may show signs ofinfection, but are not enough to make the diagnosis. An x-ray can showthe narrowing of disk space and abnormalities in the vertebrae, but notuntil 2 to 3 weeks after the onset of the disease.Bone scansand special x-rays such as an MRIoften help reveal the spread of infection in a given area.

Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the disease?

The best prevention is prompt, correct treatmentof infections in other parts of the body.

What are the long-term effects of the disease?

If the infection progresses to involve the vertebrae significantly,the vertebrae of the spine may fuse, which means to grow together. If this occurs in ayoung child, the spine may begin to tilt forward as it grows, a conditionknown as kyphosis.

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others, as diskitis is not catching.

Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the disease?

Treatment varies depending on what the cause may be.If the cause is bacterial, a combined therapy of intravenous and oralantibiotics may be given for a total of 4 to 6 weeks. For other causes,therapy may consist of rest and a body brace or cast. Surgery is rarelyneeded to clean out the infection.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

In the case of prolonged antibiotic use, side effects, such asdiarrheaor allergic reactionto the medicine may occur.

What happens after treatment for the disease?

Potential complications include kyphosisor chronic inflammation of the spine.

How is the disease monitored?

Pain levels and temperature should be monitored. Thedoctor will check blood tests and x-rays periodically. Any new orworsening symptoms should always be reported to the doctor.

Article type: xmedgeneral