A New Spin on Discitis: Two Unusual Cases in AdultsIn medical terms, any word ending with "itis" usually involves inflammation. An "itis" rarely seen in adults is discitis. Discitis is inflammation of the disc, the spongy cushion between each vertebra in the spine. Symptoms include sudden back pain that is sharp or "knifelike." There is also extreme tenderness when pressure is put on the spine. The painful symptoms are constant but can be relieved a little by rest. Activity makes the pain worse.
Children are most often affected by discitis. This results from infection spreading from the lungs or kidneys to the back. When adults have discitis, it's usually caused by other medical conditions. Discitis can develop after back surgery to remove a disc. In some rare cases, it occurs without any known cause. This is called idiopathic discitis.
Two cases of idiopathic adult discitis have been reported. Both were in women who had severe pain in the middle of the back. Treatment with rest, medications, physical therapy, and electrical stimulation for pain helped relieve the symptoms. Both women improved over time. By the end of one year, they were both without pain.
There were a few differences between these cases and discitis seen in children and other adults. Only one or two discs were involved in the idiopathic discitis versus many discs in other cases. In these two women, the discs calcified permanently. This means the discs filled with calcium particles and hardened. In other patients with discitis, the calcium gradually goes away.
Discitis affects children but rarely adults. This painful inflammation of the discs in the spine usually has a cause. For the first time, two cases with no known cause have been reported. Both patients recovered with conservative treatment and have not had any further problems.
J. Bazzi, MD, et al. Acute Calcific Discitis in Adults. In The American Journal of Orthopaedics. March 2002. Vol. 31. No. 3. Pp. 141-145.
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