Diagnostic difficulties resulting from morphological image variation in spondylodiscitis MR imaging

Ewa Dziurzyńska-Białek, Joanna Kruk-Bachonko, Wiesław Guz, Marek Losicki, Witold Krupski
Polish Journal of Radiology 2012, 77 (3): 25-34

BACKGROUND: Spinal infection (discitis; spondylodiscitis) presents a wide spectrum of pathologies. The method of choice for spondylodiscitis imaging is magnetic resonance (MR). It provides detailed anatomical information, especially concerning epidural space and spinal cord. The main aim of this article is the description and evaluation of spondylodiscitis morphological variation visible in magnetic resonance imaging.

MATERIAL/METHODS: In this article we retrospectively analysed the patients diagnosed at the Department of Radiology of the Provincial Hospital No 2 in Rzeszów between October 2009 and October 2011. The subjects involved a group of five women aged 41-74 (mean 56.3 years) and eight men aged 46-69 (mean 61,3 years). All patients had spondylodiscitis symptoms. All patients underwent MRI examination before and after the contrast enhancement. In three patients additional CT examination was performed.

RESULTS: Following the MRI procedure all patients were diagnosed with typical symptoms of spondylodiscitis. It also revealed a number of pathologies resulting from morphological spondylodiscitis variation. Other pathologies found on the MR images of the study group patients involved epidural intra-canal spinal pathological masses causing spinal cord compression, lung abscess, pyothorax, paravertebral abscesses and epidural empyemas, abscess between adjacent vertebral bodies, abscesses beneath anterior longitudinal ligament, and iliopsoas muscle abscesses. In all cases a destruction of vertebral bodies with end plates loss restriction and cortical layer discontinuity was observed. Moreover, one person was diagnosed with pathological vertebral body fractures and liquefactive necrosis of the vertebral body.

CONCLUSIONS: Spondylodiscitis manifests itself in a great number of morphological variations visible on the radiological images. Apart from ordinary features of vertebral bodies and discs, progressive spinal destruction is observed together with reactive bone changes and soft tissue infiltration. The latter leads to a number of complications e.g. abscesses or even fistulas and also to the formation of obstacles in radiological images. The knowledge of radiological images together with overall evaluation of clinical and laboratory features enables a proper diagnosis.

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