Vertebral Osteomyelitis: Unexpected Cause of Back Pain

Fermin Lopez-Rivera, Xavier Colon Rivera, Hernan Gonzalez Monroig


Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of bone caused by a pyogenic organism. Osteomyelitis is one of the most important musculoskeletal infections, commonly occurring in long bones. Vertebral osteomyelitis is fairly rare and is often overlooked. It is usually acquired hematogenously, although there are other ways of infection. Only about half of patients develop fever &gt; 38 C and symptoms are unspecific. The most common organism is <i>Staphylococcus aureus</i>, with <i>Pseudomonas aeruginosa</i> being an unexpected pathogen accounting for about 6%. We present a case of a 56-year-old Hispanic male that visited emergency room presenting with back pain of 3 weeks of evolution being discharged home. Patient returned 2 days after with no improvement. Blood test returned under normal range. Physical exam showed a focal tenderness at thoracic level. Blood culture recovered <i>Pseudomonas aeruginosa</i> sensitive to levofloxacin. CT/MRI was performed and showed vertebral osteomyelitis. Antibiotic was started for 6 weeks. Therapy was guided with erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)/C-reactive protein (CRP). Patient was evaluated monthly for 6 months and improved. Vertebral osteomyelitis is a challenging diagnosis. The consequences of the disease are dire if not diagnosed on time. Historically, the diagnosis of vertebral osteomyelitis remains in a positive culture of bone biopsy. Nowadays, when handling a suspected hematogenous vertebral osteomyelitis, blood culture has gained importance. Whether a blood culture recovered a pathogen, therapy should be based on sensitivity and can be guided following ESR/CRP levels. This type of management can preclude invasive and expensive methods, such as bone biopsy.

J Med Cases. 2017;8(8):246-248


Bacteremia; Discitis; Osteomyelitis

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