Other Spine Conditions
Specialists at Macquarie Neurosurgery & Spine are highly experienced in managing both complex and routine spinal conditions. These include:
- Degeneration of the spine (“wear and tear”)
- Spinal deformities, such as scoliosis
- Spinal Tumours
- Spinal Infections
- Spinal Fractures
What are spinal infections, and what causes them?
Spinal infections occur when bacteria or fungal organisms invade the tissues of the spine. Infections may affect the vertebrae (osteomyelitis), the intervertebral discs (discitis), the spinal canal or the spinal cord. Spinal infections are rare – but they can be serious.
The organisms that cause a spinal infection may reach the spine via the bloodstream. In other cases, spinal infection may develop after spine or pelvic surgery.
A compromised immune system increases the risk of contracting a spinal infection. Patients are more likely to develop a spinal infection if they are:
- A cigarette smoker
- A cancer patient
- An organ transplant recipient
- Suffering from an auto-immune condition that requires immune suppressant medication (such as cortisone)
- Other e.g., IV drug abuser or HIV positive patient
What are the symptoms of a spinal infection?
Spinal infections tend to develop slowly and symptoms may be mild initially. If spinal infections are left untreated, they may progress and cause long-term complications.
For patients who have had spinal surgery, the first symptom of spinal infection may be redness or warmth at the incision site. Pus or impaired wound healing could also be a sign of underlying infection.
Other symptoms of spinal infection include:
- Back pain (typically severe, and not relieved by rest)
- Neck stiffness
- Fever or chills
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Night sweats
- Loss of spine mobility
- Weakness or numbness of the arms or legs
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction
What causes vertebral compression fractures?
Osteoporosis is the most common cause of VCFs. For patients with severe osteoporosis, a VCF may occur during everyday activity. Patients with moderate osteoporosis may sustain a VCF after an injury, such as a fall. In the absence of osteoporosis, a VCF may be caused by significant trauma (like a car accident).
It could also occur if cancer spreads to the spine and weakens the bones.
What are the symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture?
A VCF typically causes:
- Sudden onset of back pain (worse while standing, and relieved on lying down)
- Decreased mobility of the spine
- Eventual loss of height and kyphotic (“hunchback”) spinal deformity
How are VCF's treated?
In some cases, vertebral compression fractures may be treated without surgery. Symptomatic treatment is accompanied by management of the underlying cause.
Minimally invasive surgical options, such as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, can aid recovery and provide significant symptom relief. A patient’s age, as well as underlying illnesses, may affect their suitability for surgery. The benefits and potential risks of surgery are carefully considered in each case and will be discussed with the patient in detail.
Our specialists at Macquarie Neurosurgery & Spine are equipped with knowledge and skills that provide the best possible outcomes for our patients. By travelling to multiple locations across New South Wales, our spinal specialists offer access to world class, evidence-based care.