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COVID-19 update:  Our hospital is still fully open for appointments and admissions, however visitors are not permitted.

Spinal Infection

The majority of patients with spinal infections are often diagnosed late because spine infection can present in many ways and mimic other conditions such as respiratory or bowel problems. In a review of 442 patients by Malawski and Lukawski (clinical Orthopaedics and Related research 1991) 47% of patients were diagnosed 1 year after the disease started.

The most frequent incorrect diagnosis included brochopneumonia, meningitis, pancreatitis, radiculitis, appendicitis and acute abdomen. The consequences of incorrect diagnosis includes appendectomy operations, laparotomy, cholecystectomy as well as other unnecessary investigations.

Causes of spinal infection

The majority of spinal infections have an undetected origin. It is however well known that bone infections occur as a result of the dissemination of bacteria through the bloodstream. Conditions that were identified as precursors to spinal infection were;

  • Chronic Osteomyelitis (chronic bone infection) 22%
  • Bronchopneumonia (Chest infection) 22%
  • Purulent skin infections 13%
  • Urinary tract infection 8%
  • Purulent Appendicitis 8%
  • Otitis Media (Middle ear infection) 5%
  • Lumbar Puncture
  • Injection of varicose veins
  • GI or GUT Surgery

Spinal infection symptoms

Unfortunately, the spinal infection can present in many unusual ways. The reason for this is that nerves around the spine may refer the pain to other areas of the body and mimic other conditions such as hip pain or knee pain which is very common. Usually, the main symptoms will include;

  • Pain (Back pain or referred pain into the abdomen, chest, or limbs) May also present with headache in the case of meningitis.
  • Fever (Night sweats are common in TB and swinging fever is common in the presence of an abscess)
  • Deformity of the spine (Usually a late feature when there has been sufficient destruction causing structural deformity). May also be due to intense pain and muscle spasm.
  • Neurological Deficit. Nerve damage or spinal cord compression due to abscess or inflammation may lead to numbness or weakness in the limbs.

Contact London Spine Specialists

For further questions relating to Spinal Infection or to book an appointment, call us on 020 3370 1030 or email spinespecialists@hje.org.uk

Spine Clinic

The Spine Clinic at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is a centre for excellence in the diagnosis, intervention and aftercare of all spinal conditions.

A patient speaking to a receptionist

Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, ENT, as well as a private GP practice and our urgent care centre, Casualty First, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information then get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 3370 1030.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

 If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP.

If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use. Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRI’s a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

    Make an enquiry

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