Object. Because modern imaging techniques now allow for early diagnosis of spinal tuberculosis, more conservative management options are possible. The authors evaluated the effectiveness of transpedicular instrumentation for treatment of thoracolumbar and lumbar spinal tuberculosis in patients with mild bone destruction and the main symptom of “instability catch” (a sudden painful “snap” that occurs when one extends from a forward bent to an upright position).
Methods. Eighteen patients (nine men and nine women, age range 49–71 years) with spinal tuberculosis were treated with transpedicular instrumentation that was supplemented with posterolateral fusion and chemotherapy. All patients were wheelchair dependent or bed-ridden due to severe instability catch, with a mean symptom duration of 2.5 months (range 1–6 months). Two contiguous vertebrae were involved in 17 patients, and a single vertebrae was involved in one. In five patients mild neurological deficits (Frankel Grade D) were present. During surgery, the screws were implanted into the two nonaffected pedicles nearest the lesion to stabilize the involved segments. No attempt at radical debridement or neural decompression was undertaken. The follow-up period ranged from 21 to 40 months. Postoperatively the instability catch was relieved within 10 days (excellent outcome) and within 1 month (good outcome) in seven and eight patients, respectively, and within 3 months (fair outcome) in two; in the remaining patient, the symptom did not resolve (poor outcome). A short duration of symptoms (generally < 3 months) and bone destruction of less than 50% in the involved vertebral bodies were observed in patients who made a good or excellent outcome. During the follow-up period, good maintenance of spinal alignment, stabilization of the involved segment, and resolution of the inflammatory process were shown; however, there was no strong evidence that fusion had occurred at the bony defect. Patients in whom a fair outcome was achieved experienced a longer duration of symptoms, and in each, one vertebral body with greater than 50% bone destruction was demonstrated. However, good maintenance of spinal alignment was also shown during the follow-up period. The patient whose outcome was poor had the longest history (6 months) of symptoms and the most extensive involvement of the spine (> 50% destruction of two adjacent lumbar vertebral bodies). Postoperatively, implant failure occurred and the patient developed a wound infection.
Conclusions. Transpedicular instrumentation provides rapid relief of instability catch and prevents late angular deformity in patients with thoracolumbar and lumbar spinal tuberculosis in whom limited (< 50%) bone destruction of the involved vertebral bodies has been shown and whose main symptom is instability catch.