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Spinal Infection From Drug Use

The most common area that can be affected by spinal infection from drug use is the lower back and the neck region also known as the lumbar and cervical region. Intravenous drug abusers are more likely to get spine infections in their cervical region. Drugs allow bacteria in the bloodstream, which can travel to the spine and cause infection.

If the infection in the spine is severe, it can cause paralysis or even death. So now the question arises, what basically is spinal infection?

What Is Spinal Infection?

Your infection in the spine is a type of disease that is rare. It can cause severe pain in your arm, leg, or neck. Spinal infection can occur at any age, including young children or the elderly, and both can get a spinal infection. These are bacterial or fungal infections that occur in your spine bone or spinal cord.

Typically, these infections spread to the spine through the bloodstream. Common bacteria, like Staph or E. Coli, can be introduced into the bloodstream following events such as surgery or drug abuse. Unlike the common cold, which is usually pretty harmless, spinal infections can wreak serious havoc on your spine. As spinal discs become inflamed from disease, they may start to break down or even decay.

Symptoms Of Spinal Infection:

Symptoms of spinal infection include the following:

  • Constipation.

  • Redness, swelling

  • Back pain.

  • Tenderness.

  • Muscle spasms.

  • Chills.

  • Fever.

  • Weight loss.

  • Painful or difficult urination.

  • Wound drainage.

What Are The Causes Of Spinal Infection?

It can be caused by the following:

  • IV antibiotics

  • After a surgery

  • Staphylococcus aureus.

  • Urological procedure

  • Drug abusers

  • Bacteria, viruses, or fungi spread in your backbone.

There are several types of spinal infections. Causes may vary according to that.

What Are The Types Of Spinal Infections?

Spinal infections are classified according to what type of tissue they infect. However, the most common types of spinal infections include the following:

1- Vertebral Osteomyelitis

It is the most common form of spinal infection, still, it is very rare, accounting for only 3-5 percent of all osteomyelitis cases per year.

  • Causes:

Vertebral osteomyelitis is most often caused by bacteria. However, the infection may develop after trauma to the spine or any post-surgery.

  • Symptoms:

Vertebral osteomyelitis symptoms include:

  1. Tingling.

  2. Inflammation.

  3. Back pain.

  4. Too much weight loss.

  5. Vomiting.

  6. Drainage of Wound.

  • Treatment:

Treatments for vertebral osteomyelitis include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen) for pain relief.

  • IV antibiotics.

  • Oral antibiotics.

  • Back brace.

2- Discitis

It is a type of spinal infection that develops between the intervertebral discs of the spine. However, this type is relatively uncommon. It is usually found in children and adolescents, but can also affect adults.

  • Causes:

Bacterial or viral infections are the common causes of this type. However, Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, also known “colloquially as staph” is the most common microbe to cause discitis.

  • Symptoms:

Common symptoms of discitis include:

  • Constipation.

  • Changes in the posture.

  • Difficulty with mobility and performing day-to-day tasks.

  • Fever.

  • Intense back pain worsened at night or with movement.

  • Treatment:

Treatment options for discitis include the following:

  • Antibiotics.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications for pain relief.

  • Back supportive device.

  • Bed rest.

However, In some cases of discitis, surgery may be necessary to reconstruct the spine to improve function and mobility.

3. Epidural Abscess:

​It is an infection that can occur in the spaces between the bones of your spine, bones of your skull, and spinal cord.

However, It is often found with vertebral osteomyelitis or discitis infection. An epidural abscess is a medical emergency, with an estimated mortality rate of 5 to 16%. And Less than 50% of patients make a full recovery.

  • Causes

Epidural abscess is usually caused by any bacterial or fungal infection in the affected area. Most commonly a Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection.

However, In some cases, an epidural abscess can be caused by infections in other parts of the body e.g., urinary tract infection.

  • Symptoms

Symptoms of an epidural abscess include:

  • Fever.

  • Neurological deficits

  • Trouble walking.

  • Swelling.

  • Headache.

  • Dorsalgia.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Treatment:

In most cases, intravenous antibiotics are used to treat the infection that caused the epidural abscess. If you have difficulty with movement or are experiencing numbness.

How Severe Is Spinal Cord Infection?

Sometimes it results in disc slip letting the inner fluid (nucleus pulposus) type part of the cartilaginous disc by rupturing the outer membrane, Which presses the spinal nerves resulting in tremendous pain and may result in immovability. However, In severe cases, it can cause paralysis or can be fatal.

Can Drugs Cause Spinal Infection?

When drug abuse, poor postural habits, and nutritional issues that reduce calcium absorption are combined, the effects are compounded. It results in significant issues with the spine, including the development of arthritis or other types of spinal infections. However, Spinal infection from drug use is more common in adults.

Is It Possible To Recover From Spinal Infection?

Yes, you can recover from spinal infections from drug use. Your recovery depends on how severe the infection is. Sometimes, you just need antibiotics and sometimes you need surgery. By taking IV antibiotics, you can cure your infection in 4 to 6 weeks. However, Sometimes, spinal bracing is also used for intravenous antibiotics.

How Are Spinal Infections Diagnosed?

Spinal Infections can be diagnosed through a combination of imaging studies and lab work. If you are still in the early stages of an infection, your doctor will likely begin by taking an x-ray. Although X-rays cannot show soft tissues (like spinal discs), they can reveal bone deterioration and loss of disc height. 

(In this case, a loss of disc height is represented by a decreased amount of space between two vertebrae.) To obtain information about both soft tissues and bone health, your doctor may upgrade your exam to an MRI.

What Are The Risk Factors?

Risk factors for developing a spinal infection from drug use include:

  • Advanced age.

  • Autoimmune conditions.

  • Cancer.

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Intravenous drug use.

  • Malnutrition.

  • Obesity.

  • Smoking.

What Are The Possible Treatments?

Surgical and non-surgical treatments are possible for spinal infection from drug use. Early treatment for spine infections is key in order to reduce the risk of permanent damage to your spine and neck.

1. Non-Surgical Treatments:

They often require long-term intravenous antibiotics or antifungal therapy.

  • Antibiotic Therapy & Bracing

To treat your spinal infection, your doctor will likely use a combination of intravenous antibiotics and bracing to support your spine as it heals. More often than not, this will be sufficient to help you recover.

  • Laminectomy:

If your spinal infection has abscessed, then your surgeon may need to perform a laminectomy to relieve pressure on your spinal cord. During a laminectomy, your doctor will remove the back portion of your vertebra (or lamina) to increase space for your spinal cord.

  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (Alif):

During an ALIF, your doctor will remove the source of infection from your spine and then perform a spinal fusion. Entering the spine from the front (or anterior side), your surgeon will insert a bone graft that will permanently fuse the two vertebrae together for support.

  • Kyphoplasty:

If your vertebra is fractured from the infection, then your doctor will need to perform kyphoplasty for the vertebral augmentation procedure.

2. Surgical Treatments:

Surgical treatments are often the first priority but if the patients have neurological deficits then doctors advise surgery. Spinal fusion may be required to treat a spinal cord infection.

What Is Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion is one of the most common types of spine surgery, it has risks. And, spinal instrumentation problems are among the most reported complications in this type of surgery.

However, When your surgeon discovers an issue with your spinal instrumentation, he or she may recommend removing the instrumentation or leaving it in place.

What Causes Spinal Fusion Hardware Infection?

Below are some of the most common problems that cause spinal fusion hardware infection:

  • Moved instrumentation: Weak bones can also cause spinal instrumentation.

  • Subsidence of a cage or interbody device.

However, Certain types of spinal fusion surgeries increase your risk of having any spinal fusion infection.

What Do You Know About The Spinal Fusion Hardware Infection Symptoms?

Symptoms of spinal fusion hardware include the following:

  • Fever.

  • Rhomboid spasm.

  • Inflammation.

  • Dorsalgia.

  • Constipation.

  • Back pain.

How To Identify Rhomboid Muscle Pain?

Rhomboid spasm Muscle pain is felt under the neck between the shoulder blades and spine. You may feel pain in this area as a strain, a shooting pain, or some type of spasm. However, Other symptoms of rhomboid muscle pain may include:

  • Dorsalgia (Back Pain).

  • A popping or grinding noise when you move the shoulder blade.

  • Tightness, swelling, and muscle knots around the muscle.

What Is Dorsalgia?

Dorsalgia means back or spine pain, including low back, mid-back, and sciatic pain. Back pain can range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. However, the pain may radiate down your leg and worsen with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, and walking. 

Dr. Rao K. Ali M.D.

Dr. Rao Ali, a board-certified pain management physician, leads the clinic, which specializes in nonsurgical treatment. The physician has experience in the emergency room as well as training in pain management and rehabilitation. As a personal physician, he works with each patient to develop a treatment plan that will minimize or eliminate their pain. Providing expert diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions, Pain Management In Dallas, PA provides a comprehensive range of services. These services include neck pain, back pain, hip and knee pain, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, headaches, migraines, and many others.