Matthew Anthony Kirkman, Krishnamurthy Sridhar


January 2011, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1 - 5 Grand Rounds Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-010-1524-5

First Online: 06 August 2010

[Figure not available: see fulltext.]The management of spinal tuberculosis, especially in children, is controversial. In children, vertebral destruction is more severe than adults because of the cartilaginous nature of their bone. Modern chemotherapy has significantly decreased mortality in spinal tuberculosis, but morbidity remains high. Without early surgery, patients can develop severe kyphosis leading to respiratory insufficiency, painful costopelvic impingement and paraplegia. Lumbar kyphosis results in early degenerative lumbar canal stenosis and is cosmetically unacceptable. We report a paediatric case of atypical spinal tuberculosis demonstrating the need for early surgical intervention to prevent significant spinal instability and neurologic deficit. A 12-year-old girl presented with increasing ambulatory difficulty and double incontinence 4 months after initiating treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis. There was no history of traumatic injury. Examination revealed severe lower limb neurologic deficit, with hypotonia, areflexia, marked sensory loss, and grade 0/5 power in both lower limbs. Plain radiographs and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated grade IV posterior listhesis of the L2 vertebral body over L3, cauda equina compression and bilateral psoas abscesses. Erosion of both the body and pedicle of L2 was observed. Both serology and pus drained from the psoas abscesses were negative for microorganisms. The patient underwent an L2 vertebrectomy via a left retroperitoneal approach. A titanium cage packed with autologous bone graft was inserted, and the spine was stabilized by fixation with screw and rods. Histopathology confirmed a diagnosis of tuberculosis. Eighteen months following the procedure, the patient has regained some power in her right leg and has completed her course of anti-tuberculous chemotherapy, but remains wheelchair-bound. To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of posterior listhesis secondary to spinal tuberculosis. Here, we discuss the possible management options in such a case, and the indications for surgery. As the global HIV/AIDS epidemic causes a resurgence in tuberculosis, increased awareness among the medical community regarding the atypical presentations of spinal tuberculosis is necessitated; both in the developing world where advanced clinical presentations are common, and in the developed world where spinal tuberculosis is an often-neglected diagnosis.


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