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J Korean Acad Rehabil Med. 1997 Apr;21(2):384-389. Korean. Original Article.
Lee BW , Kim SJ .
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University, Korea.

Tuberculous spondylitis occurs commonly by the hematogenous spread of infectious organism, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, from the primary foci of the pulmonary and genitourinary systems. Spinal involvement is the most common among tuberculosis of the musculoskeletal system. Tuberculous spondylitis is not easily diagnosed in its early stages and furthermore it is hard to know whether or not the vertebrae are involved by simple X-ray study. The incidence of neurologic deficits varies from 4 to 50%. If the disease is not diagnosed and treated promptly, paraplegia may occur from vertebral collapse. A retrospective study was performed to evaluate the clinical features of tuberculous spondylitis in 51 patients (male 25, female 26), age range of 4-79 years (mean, 36.2?18.7). Clinical symptoms, signs, radiological findings and laboratory findings were reviewed. The latest follow ups were done with telephone interviews to evaluate their general improvement and neurological recoveries. Back pain was the most frequent symptom, followed by sensory disturbance and gait difficulty. Twenty one patients had kyphotic deformity, 7 had lower extremity paralysis, and 29 patients were accompanied by pulmonary tuberculosis. The involved spinal segments were C2 through S1 with the most common site of thoracolumbar spines. The average erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was 42.1?23.5 mm/hour before medical or surgical treatment and 19.6?12.6 mm/hour after treatment. The acid-fast bacillus test was positive in only 6 patients. Electrodiagnostic studies and bone scans showed positive findings in 75% and 86%, respectively. Back pain was relieved in 90% of the patients with medical or surgical treatment. In patients with paralysis, initial kyphotic angle and degree of vertebral body loss were significantly greater than in patient without paralysis. When treated surgically early after the leg paralysis, patients with paralysis improved their neurologic deficits and gait better than when treated after 2 months.

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