Adjacent level discitis after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF): a case report.

Research paper by Arvind Gopalrao AG Kulkarni, Hwan Tak HT Hee

Indexed on: 08 Dec '05Published on: 08 Dec '05Published in: European Spine Journal


This report describes a case of spondylodiscitis occurring adjacent to levels at which anterior cervical discectomy and fusion was performed. The objective is to describe a rare cause of spondylodiscitis and discuss its successful management. Post-operative discitis involving the same level is a known occurrence. We report an interesting case of spondylodiscitis occurring at the adjacent level of fusion, and to our knowledge this is the first such case reported in literature. A two-level decompression and fusion was performed at C5-6 and C6-7 levels with PEEK cages and anterior cervical plating in a middle-aged gentleman for persistent axial neck pain and left-sided radiculopathy involving C6 and C7 distribution. After 6 weeks, the patient presented to us with complaints of mild paresthesia in the abdomen and extremities. Radiological investigations including plain radiographs and MRI revealed a surprising finding of discitis at C4-5 level with an associated epidural abscess. In view of the patient's myelopathic symptoms, surgical debridement and decompression of the spinal cord was performed. The plate and screws were removed, the cages were left intact, and the C4-5 disc level was reconstructed with tricortical iliac crest autograft. No further instrumentation was performed. The biopsy specimen from the disc at C4-5 level grew Serratia marcescens. It was contemplated that C4-5 discitis was initiated by inoculation of bacteria at the superior endplate of C5 by contaminated vertebral pins/drill-bit or screws. Adjacent level discitis is a rare but potentially serious complication of anterior cervical fusion. A high index of suspicion of infection is necessary if the patient complains of new symptoms after anterior cervical fusion. Thorough assessment and aggressive treatment is necessary for successful management.