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September 24, 1960

Infections Involving the Intervertebral DisksDiagnosis and Management

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Rheumatic Disease (Dr. Scherbel) and the Department of Neurological Surgery (Dr. Gardner), the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and the Frank E. Bunts Educational Institute.

JAMA. 1960;174(4):370-374. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03030040024007

The cardinal symptom of intervertebral disk infection in 10 patients was sudden excruciating back pain that frequently radiated down one leg or both legs and usually was not relieved with opiates. These infections usually occurred after a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure on the spine or as a result of venous spread from an infection in the pelvis. Characteristic roentgenographic features did not appear for four or more weeks. The sedimentation rate was consistently high, but returned to normal after the infection subsided. For four patients treated conservatively with antibiotics, complete bed rest, and body casts, the average length of convalescence was 8 months; for six patients treated by laminectomy in addition to other therapeutic measures, it was 4.8 months.