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What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Infection?

What is Spinal Infection & What are its Causes?

A spinal infection is an infection that involves the bones of the spinal cord, intervertebral discs, and the dural sac, which is the covering around the spinal cord, getting infected for a variety of reasons.(1,2,3) Bacterial or fungal organisms are the primary causes of a spinal infection.(1,2,3) Individuals with medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, inadequate nutrition, cancer, diabetes and morbid obesity are more at risk for developing a spinal infection.(2,3)

Another primary cause for a spinal cord infection is believed to be certain surgical procedures.(3) This includes fairly long and complicated surgical procedures involving a lot of instrumentation and frequent re-operations. An estimated 5-6% of individuals with a history of a prolonged and complicated surgical procedure develop Spinal Infection despite all measures taken by the surgeons to prevent its development. The more surgery that an individual undergoes the likelihood of that individual having spinal infection increases. In majority of the cases, Spinal Infection occurs within the first three months after surgery.(3)

When we speak of a Spinal Infection, it is extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of this condition in order to prevent any long-term complications and start treatment for the condition. This article gives an overview of some of the symptoms of a Spinal Infection.

What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Infection?

The primary presenting feature of a spinal infection, as is the case with any other infection, includes fever and chills.(3) Additionally, the patient suffering from spinal infection will complain of persistent headaches and neck stiffness. In case of a prolonged surgery, then the patient will experience tenderness at the wound site with maybe some erythema at the site.(3) There will also be persistent wound drainage from the surgical site.(3)

There have been some cases where the patient has complained of symptoms of spinal infection to include new weakness along with numbness and tingling sensation going down the upper or lower extremities the severity of which depends on the degree of infection and how much the infection has spread.(3)


In conclusion, individuals with a history of prolonged complicated surgery or having a history of multiple procedures at the same location are prone to develop Spinal Infection.

While there are no tell-tale signs or symptoms of a Spinal Infection, individuals may complain of persistent fever and chills along with numbness and tingling going down the upper or lower extremities. Drainage from the wound site and pain is yet another symptom that an individual may complain of in case of a surgery causing a Spinal Infection.


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 12, 2020

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