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Volume 43, Number 4, August 2010

Clinical Features and Outcomes of Spinal Tuberculosis in Southern Taiwan  

Shou-Hsin Su, Wen-Cheng Tsai, Chun-Yu Lin, Wei-Ru Lin, Tun-Chieh Chen, Po-Liang Lu, Pei-Ming Huang, Jong-Rung Tsai, Ya-Ling Wang, Ming-Chu Feng, Tzu-Pin Wang, Yen-Hsu Chen

Received: April 30, 2009    Revised: June 30, 2009    Accepted: July 29, 2009   


Corresponding author:

Tun-Chieh Chen, 100 Tzyou 1st Road, Kaohsiung 807, Taiwan


Background and purpose: 

The early diagnosis and appropriate management of spinal tuberculosis (TB) is challenging for clinicians. This study aimed to characterize the clinical features and factors affecting treatment outcomes.



A retrospective study of patients with spinal TB over a 7-year period at a medical center in southern Taiwan was conducted. Clinical features, underlying diseases, laboratory results, imaging findings, therapy, treatment duration and outcomes were analyzed.



Forty-eight patients (24 men and 24 women) were diagnosed with spinal TB. Their mean age was 64.3 years. The most common presenting symptoms were backache, neurological deficits, and fever. The most common vertebral area involved was lumbar spine (41.7%). The mean number of vertebra involved was 2.46. Surgery was carried out on 30 patients (62.5%). Patients who had a longer duration of symptoms prior to diagnosis were more likely to have surgery (p = 0.03), and patients who received surgery had a more favorable outcome (p = 0.063). The mean treatment course was 11.4 ± 3.7 months. A long course treatment did not contribute to favorable outcomes. Twenty-six patients had a favorable outcome and 11 had an unfavorable outcome. Factors associated with an unfavorable outcome included older age, limb weakness, incontinence, spinal kyphotic deformity, and spinal cord compression.



For elderly patients with chronic back pain in Taiwan, the differential diagnosis of spinal TB should be considered. Image studies and computed tomography-guided aspiration are helpful for early detection. Combined surgical intervention tended to have a more favorable outcome and longer treatment periods had no additional benefit.


Key words:

 antituberculous therapy  ,  outcome  ,  spine  ,  tuberculosis