Kim, Choll W MD, PhD *+; Perry, Andrew MD *+; Currier, Brad MD ++; Yaszemski, Michael MD, PhD ++; Garfin, Steven R MD *
Fungal infections of the spine are relatively uncommon. Fungi such as Coccidioides immitis and Blastomyces dermatitidis are limited to specific geographical areas whereas cryptococcus, candida, and aspergillus are found worldwide. Candida and aspergillus are normal commensals of the body and produce disease in susceptible organisms when they gain access to the vascular system through intravenous lines, during implantation of prosthetic devices, or during surgery. For the other fungi, spinal involvement usually is the result of hematogenous or direct spread of organisms from an initial pulmonary source of infection. Involvement of the vertebral bodies can lead to vertebral compression fractures and gross deformity of the spine. Spread of infection along the anterior longitudinal ligament can lead to psoas or paravertebral abscesses. Early recognition of the disease requires a high index of suspicion, proper travel history, and a detailed physical examination. Treatment relies on the prompt institution of appropriate pharmacotherapy and constant monitoring of clinical progress. Resistance to medical therapy, spinal instability, and neurologic deficits are indications for debridement and stabilization with spinal fusion. Prognosis depends on the premorbid state of the patient, the type of fungal organism, and the timing of treatment.
Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research. 444:92-99, March 2006.