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SA Orthopaedic Journal

On-line version ISSN 2309-8309
Print version ISSN 1681-150X


REID, C  and  DUNN, RN. The surgical management of spinal tuberculosis in children and adolescents. SA orthop. j. [online]. 2009, vol.8, n.4, pp.56-62. ISSN 2309-8309.

BACKGROUND: Antituberculous chemotherapy remains the cornerstone of treatment of tuberculosis (TB) of the spine and the paediatric and adolescent populations respond particularly well to medical management. These patients are however more prone to kyphotic deformity of the spine both during the active phase, and after the disease has been cured. The British Medical Research Council Working Party on tuberculosis of the spine has found only slight advantages to surgical management over medical management and advocated ambulant chemotherapy alone where adequate facilities are lacking.1 However patients with neurological compromise were excluded from the initial trials. Patients managed surgically had either anterior debridement and strut grafting (Hong Kong procedure) or anterior debridement alone. No posterior fusion was performed and no instrumentation was used. METHODS: We reviewed all patients under the age of 18 years who had undergone surgery for TB spine at Groote Schuur and the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital from 2001-2008. Forty patients were identified on interrogation of the senior author's (RND) prospectively maintained database. The anatomical distribution was: Sixty-six per cent thoracic, 15% lumbar, 14% cervical or cervicothoracic and 5% thoracolumbar. Indications for surgery included: deformity (50%), neurological compromise (44%), instability (13%), pain (10%), revision (10%), diagnosis (4%) and failure of medical management (4%) Surgical procedures included: primary fusion (35), graft revision (5), drainage of psoas abscess (4), costotransversectomy (3) and biopsy (2). The majority of the fusions were anterior and posterior (25) the others were posterior only (9) or anterior only (1). RESULTS: Where acute correction of deformity was attempted, an average kyphosis of 53° was improved to an average of 38°. At last follow-up correction was better maintained in cases where instrumentation was used, compared to un-instrumented fusions. No neurological deterioration occurred after surgery but two patients failed to improve despite decompression. The rest became ambulant. Complications included graft failure that required revision in five cases and recollection of psoas abscesses in a patient with multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB. CONCLUSIONS: Surgery for spinal TB in the paediatric and adolescent groups can be safe in terms of a low complication rate, and effective with good correction of deformity that is well maintained with instrumentation.

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