Object. Patients with deep wound infections complicating previously placed internal instrumentation have been successfully treated by debridement and prolonged postoperative antibiotic therapy, which avoided removal of the hardware. Comparatively fewer patients with pyogenic discitis and vertebral osteomyelitis (PDVO) have undergone single-stage debridement, arthrodesis, and internal fixation. The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of combining debridement, arthrodesis in which iliac autograft is used, and segmental internal fixation in a single-stage procedure for patients in whom nonoperative management of PDVO has failed.
Methods. A retrospective analysis of 17 consecutive patients with PDVO treated between July 1996 and September 1999 was performed. Follow-up data (mean 30 months) included office examinations and telephone interviews, and patients were grouped according to the duration of preoperative antibiotic therapy. All patients experienced significant postoperative reduction in pain, and those with neurological deficits improved. Eleven patients were independently ambulatory, and three required a walker; only five had been ambulating independently preoperatively. Two patients died during the 1st postoperative week of medical complications; another developed a wound dehiscence that was managed with debridement, prolonged antibiotic administration, and removal of the hardware 1 year later. In no case was pseudarthrosis demonstrated on dynamic radiography. Most patients received only a 6-week course of intravenous antibiotics postoperatively.
Conclusions. The authors conclude that single-stage debridement, arthrodesis, and internal fixation can be effective in the treatment of PDVO. A 6-week course of postoperative intravenous antibiotics may be sufficient in patients with few risk factors. The harvesting of iliac autograft through the same operative exposure may not increase the risk of secondary infection.