Infection of the cervical spine is a rare disease but is associated with significant risk of neurological deterioration, morbidity, and a poor response to nonsurgical management. The ideal treatment for cervical spondylodiscitis (CSD) remains unclear.
Hospital records of patients who underwent acute surgical management for CSD were reviewed. Information about preoperative neurological status, surgical treatment, peri- and postoperative processes, antibiotic treatment, repeated procedure, and neurological status at follow-up examination were analyzed.
A total of 30 consecutive patients (17 male and 13 female) were included in this retrospective study. The mean age at procedures was 68.1 years (range 50–82 years), with mean of 6 coexisting comorbidities. Preoperatively neck pain was noted in 21 patients (70.0%), arm pain in 12 (40.0%), a paresis in 12 (40.0%), sensory deficit in 8 (26.7%), tetraparesis in 6 (20%), a septicemia in 4 (13.3%). Preoperative MRI scan revealed a CSD in one-level fusion in 21 patients (70.0%), in two-level fusions in 7 patients (23.3%), and in three-level fusions in 2 patients (6.7%). In 16 patients an antibiotic treatment was initiated prior to surgical treatment. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with cervical plating (ACDF+CP) was performed in 17 patients and anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion (ACCF) in 12 patients. Additional posterior decompression was performed in one case of ACDF+CP and additional posterior fixation in ten cases of ACCF procedures. Three patients died due to multiple organ failure (10%). Revision surgery was performed in 6 patients (20.7%) within the first 2 weeks postoperatively. All patients received antibiotic treatment for 6 weeks. At the first follow-up (mean 3 month) no recurrent infection was detected on blood workup and MRI scans. At final follow-up (mean 18 month), all patients reported improvement of neck pain, all but one patients were free of radicular pain and had no sensory deficits, and all patients showed improvement of motor strength. One patient with preoperative tetraparesis was able to ambulate.
CSD is a disease that is associated with severe neurological deterioration. Anterior cervical surgery with radical debridement and appropriate antibiotic treatment achieves complete healing. Anterior cervical plating with the use of polyetheretherketone cages has no negative effect of the healing process. Posterior fixation is recommended following ACCF procedures.