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Spine J. 2005 Jan-Feb;5(1):79-84.

Results of nonsurgical treatment of thoracic spinal tuberculosis in adults.

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The Spine Clinic, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Veer Savarkar Road, Mahim, Mumbai 400-016, India.



The indications for surgery in spinal tuberculosis have been controversial, and more so recently, in the era of renewed understanding of the concept of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis along with newer modalities of spinal instrumentation. Indications for surgery need to be redefined in this context.


To assess the efficacy and results of nonsurgical treatment in thoracic spinal tuberculosis in adult patients, and redefine indications for surgery.


We present a retrospective analysis of 70 adults with thoracic spinal tuberculosis, with varying presentations, including abscesses and neurological deficits, seen at our spine clinic, in a period between August 1998 and August 2000, treated largely nonsurgically, with rewarding results.


A retrospective study was made of 70 adult patients with thoracic spinal tuberculosis presenting at our spine clinic, between August 1998 and August 2000. All patients were subjected to medical management, unless there were specific indications for surgery, as per our protocol, wherein absolute indications of surgery in adults included advanced neurological deficit (less than Grade 3 by 5, by the 5-point grading system of the Medical Research Council), neurology worsening while on antituberculous chemotherapy, diagnosis in doubt on clinicoradiological evaluation and significant kyphosis (greater than 40 degrees) on presentation. Clinical and radiological assessment of results was made by an independent observer, at a mean follow up of 40 months.


Forty-four patients presented with abscesses, 21 of which were epidural. Seven had neurological signs of cord compression on clinical examination at presentation. Over 98% of our patients (69 of 70) were successfully treated conservatively, and none of these had any residual instability, radiculopathy or neurological compromise. Seventy-four percent had excellent to good results, with no mechanical residues of the disease, and 23% had residual kyphosis, which was clinically obvious, but biomechanically irrelevant.


We think that tuberculous spondylodiscitis in adults can be well managed conservatively in a vast majority of cases, and indications for surgery are few and specific.

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