Postoperative Spinal Implant Infections in Children: Risk Factors, Characteristics and Outcome

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Postoperative infection is a major complication of spinal surgery with implants. We aimed to identify risk factors for, and characteristics of, postoperative spinal infections in children.


We performed a retrospective observational study of all children who underwent posterior spinal fusion with instrumentation in 2 referral hospitals in 2008–2013. Spinal infections were defined as local and/or general signs of infection that required surgical treatment in the early postoperative phase (ie, within 30 days). Data were collected on a standardized questionnaire from medical charts.


Of the 450 children who underwent spinal surgery, 26 (5.8%) were diagnosed with early postoperative spinal implant infection, with a median age of 14 years (interquartile range, 13–17) and a median delay of 13 days postsurgery (interquartile range, 7–18). Postoperative infection was more common in children with neurologic scoliosis as compared with idiopathic scoliosis (12.2% [15/123] versus 2.4% [5/211]; P < 0.01). Neurologic scoliosis was an independent predictor of spinal implant infections (hazard ratio, 3.87 [1.72–8.69]; P < 0.001). Main pathogens were Staphylococcus aureus (n = 14) and Enterobacteriaceae (n = 8). All children underwent early surgery (wound exploration, debridement and lavage) and antibiotics for a median duration of 19 weeks [interquartile range, 12–26]. Two children (7.7%) required a second surgery. Spinal implants could be retained in all, and no relapse occurred with a follow-up of ≥24 months after antibiotic discontinuation.


Postoperative spinal implant infection is not rare in pediatric patients, especially with neurologic scoliosis. Most children may be cured with implant retention if managed with early surgery followed by a 3-month course of appropriate antibacterial agents.

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