Tuberculosis of the spine with severe angular kyphosis: MEAN 34-YEAR POST-OPERATIVE FOLLOW-UP SHOWS THAT PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN SALVAGE

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Abstract

Aims

To address the natural history of severe post-tuberculous (TB) kyphosis, with focus upon the long-term neurological outcome, occurrence of restrictive lung disease, and the effect on life expectancy.

Patients and Methods

This is a retrospective clinical review of prospectively collected imaging data based at a single institute. A total of 24 patients of Southern Chinese origin who presented with spinal TB with a mean of 113° of kyphosis (65° to 159°) who fulfilled inclusion criteria were reviewed. Plain radiographs were used to assess the degree of spinal deformity. Myelography, CT and MRI were used when available to assess the integrity of the spinal cord and canal. Patient demographics, age of onset of spinal TB and interventions, types of surgical procedure, intra- and post-operative complications, and neurological status were assessed.

Results

All except one of the 24 patients were treated with anti-TB chemotherapy when they were first diagnosed with spinal TB. They subsequently received surgery either for neurological deterioration, or deformity correction in later life. The mean follow-up was 34 years (11 to 59) since these surgical interventions. Some 16 patients (66.7%) suffered from late neurological deterioration at a mean of 26 years (8 to 49) after the initial drug treatment. The causes of neurological deterioration were healed disease in nine patients (56.2%), re-activation in six patients (37.5%) and adjacent level spinal stenosis in one patient (6.3%). The result of surgery was worse in healed disease. Eight patients without neurological deterioration received surgery to correct the kyphosis. The mean correction ranged from 97° to 72°. Three patients who were clinically quiescent with no neurological deterioration were found to have active TB of the spine. Solid fusion was achieved in all cases and no patient suffered from neurological deterioration after 42 years of follow-up. On final follow-up, six patients were noted to have deceased (age range: 47 years to 75 years).

Conclusion

Our study presents one of the longest assessments of spinal TB with severe kyphosis. Severe post-TB kyphosis may lead to significant health problems many years following the initial drug treatment. Early surgical correction of the kyphosis, solid fusion and regular surveillance may avoid late complications. Paraplegia, restrictive lung disease and early onset kyphosis might relate to early death. Clinically quiescent disease does not mean cure.

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