Lumbar spine osteomyelitis can be refractory to conventional techniques for identifying a causal organism. In cases in which a protracted antibiotic regimen is indicated, obtaining a conclusive yield on biopsy is particularly important. Although lateral transpsoas approaches and intraoperative computed tomography (CT) navigation are well documented as techniques used for spinal arthrodesis, their utility in vertebral biopsy has yet to be reported in any capacity.
In a 44-year-old male patient with a history of Nocardia bacteremia, CT-guided biopsy failed to confirm the microbiology of an L4–5 discitis osteomyelitis. The patient underwent a minimally invasive open biopsy in which a lateral approach with intraoperative guidance was used to access the infected disc space retroperitoneally. A thin film was obtained and cultured Nocardia nova, and the patient was treated accordingly with a long course of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
The combination of a lateral transpsoas approach with intraoperative navigation is a valuable technique for obtaining positive yield in cases of discitis osteomyelitis of the lumbar spine refractory to CT-guided biopsy.