The Incidence of Multiple Level Noncontiguous Vertebral Tuberculosis Detected Using Whole Spine MRI

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Abstract

The commonest site of osseous tuberculosis is the spine. Most vertebral lesions are contiguous. Current research indicates the incidence of multiple level noncontiguous vertebral tuberculosis is 1.1% to 16%. The aim of this study was to identify the incidence of multiple level noncontiguous vertebral tuberculosis using whole spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A retrospective review was undertaken of case notes and whole spine MRI studies of all acute spinal infection cases that presented to a regional Spinal Unit over 3 years. Patients were included if spinal infection was identified by whole spine MRI and confirmed as tuberculosis by a combination of histology and microbiology. The incidence of multiple level noncontiguous vertebral tuberculosis was 71.4%. This is higher than previously quoted when MRI is not undertaken. Tuberculosis may affect the spine at multiple noncontiguous sites more frequently than thought previously. A large proportion of the affected noncontiguous sites may also be asymptomatic. We currently perform whole spine MRI on all patients with suspected spinal infection to aid detection of multiple level noncontiguous tuberculosis.

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