Document Type: Case Report



Vertebral osteomyelitis, or spondylodiscitis, is a rare disease with increasing prevalence in recent years due to a greater number of spinal surgical procedures, nosocomial bacteraemia, an aging population and intravenous drug addiction. Haematogenous infection is the most common cause of spondylodiscitis. We report a 47-year-old man diagnosed with Escherichia coli spondylodiscitis. The patient initially presented with a 4-day history of inflammatory, mechanical pain in the lower back suggesting sciatica. Treatment included NSAIDs and opioids. Two days after discharge from hospital following an admission due to an upper GI bleeding, the back pain intensified, precipitating a new attendance to the emergency department; during which lumbosacral radiography showed marked reduction of L2/L3 intervertebral space. After a new admission to the rheumatology unit due to worsening of symptoms and raised inflammatory markers, an expedited MRI showed loss of intervertebral disc space at L2/L3, with an irregular high intensity area at L2; suggesting a fluid collection extending to adjacent soft tissues. Fluoroscopy-guided core needle bone biopsies were reported positive for Escherichia coli sensitive to ceftriaxone. The patient was treated (received treatment) with a three week course of ceftriaxone following a formal diagnosis of E. coli spondylodiscitis. Follow-up MRI demonstrated complete recovery with the patient able to return (has returned) to normal activity. In this case we highlight the importance of correct and timely diagnosis of spondylodiscitis. Diagnosis of spondylodiscitis is often difficult, delayed or even missed due to the rarity of the disease but can lead to devastating consequences. Therefore a high index of suspicion is needed for prompt diagnosis to ensure improved long-term outcomes.