Postoperative infections of the spine.

Jesse Bible, Debdut Biswas, Clint J. Devin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The incidence of postoperative infections after spinal surgery ranges from less than 1% to 15%. This rate can vary based on several surgical- and patient-related risk factors, such as the type and duration of the procedure, nutritional status, immunosuppression, and comorbidities of the patient. Most surgeons routinely administer intravenous antibiotics prophylactically, and may employ other measures in an effort to prevent postoperative infection. Multiple diagnostic modalities, in conjunction with examination findings, should be utilized in the assessment of possible postoperative spinal infections. In particular, wound discharge or erythema, and an elevation in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein beyond expected postoperative values should raise a clinician's level of suspicion for an infection. The diagnosis of a postoperative spine infection can be difficult to confirm with diagnostic imaging, given findings are not all that different from normal postoperative changes. When suspected, the preferred treatment for a postoperative spinal infection is open irrigation and aggressive debridement of all necrotic tissue and bone, followed by antibiotic treatment based on culture sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E264-271
JournalAmerican journal of orthopedics (Belle Mead, N.J.)
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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