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Neurol India. 2019 Nov-Dec;67(6):1408-1418. doi: 10.4103/0028-3886.273630.

An Institutional Review of Tuberculosis Spine Mimics on MR Imaging: Cases of Mistaken Identity.

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Department of Radiology, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
Sakra World Hospital, India.


Although MRI has a spectrum of findings which help in the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) spine, a broad spectrum of spine pathologies resemble Pott's spine on MRI and are often missed due to inadequate clinical details. As a result, patients are often subject to unnecessary biopsy. A blinded radiologist may misdiagnose such mimic cases as TB. Our aim is to enable the reader to learn the main criteria that differentiate spine TB from other spine etiologies that mimic TB. A retrospective search was done and authors collected only MRI spine reports that showed a differential diagnosis or diagnosis of TB spine from the computer-based data records of the institution over a four-year period. This revealed 306 cases of TB spine out of which 78 cases with an alternate diagnosis that resembled TB spine were included. We describe a single institute review of 78 such cases that resemble and mimic Pott's spine on MRI. The cases being: (n = 15) pyogenic spondylitis, (n = 1) brucellar spondylodiscitis, (n = 12) rheumatoid arthritis, (n = 12) metastases, (n = 8) lymphoma, (n = 5) post-trauma fractures, (n = 10) degenerative disc disease, (n = 2) Baastrup's disease, (n = 9) osteoporotic fracture, (n = 3) spinal neuropathic arthritis, and (n = 1) case of Rosai-Dorfman disease. The clinical and radiological findings of all these cases were correlated with lab findings and histopathology wherever necessary. Appropriate recognition of these entities that resemble and mimic TB spine on MRI is important for optimal patient care. This paper exposes radiologists to a variety of spine pathologies for which biopsy is not indicated, and highlights key imaging findings of these entities to facilitate greater diagnostic accuracy in clinical practice.


MRI; Mimics; Pott's spine; spine; spondylodiscitis; tuberculosis

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