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BACKGROUND: We describe the management of osteomyelitis of the cervical spine, utilizing internal fixation with subsequent removal and culture of the implants. Four out of five patients had evidence of bacterial colonisation in close proximity to the internal fixation device. METHODS: Five consecutive patients (all female, ranging in age from 50 to 74 yrs) presenting with unstable cervical osteomyelitis were treated by surgical decompression, primary internal fixation followed by three months of intravenous antibiotics. The internal fixation was removed in 4 out of 5 cases within a year of stopping the intravenous regime. The remaining patient was deemed medically unfit for further operation. Multiple specimens from the screw sites were taken at the time of metal removal. A final course of oral antibiotics was prescribed based on the results of these specimens. FINDINGS: Four patients, who had removal of the implants, had positive cultures growing different bacteria from the primary infection, at the time of removal of the implant. None of the patients developed instability after removal of the implant. INTERPRETATION: Asymptomatic bacterial colonisation of a metallic implant has profound management implications. We recommend long-term oral antibiotic regimes after insertion of internal fixation devices in the face of infection and eventual removal of these implants and microbiological re-sampling.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta neurochir (wien)

Publication Date





957 - 960


Aged, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Cervical Vertebrae, Device Removal, Female, Humans, Internal Fixators, Middle Aged, Osteomyelitis, Spinal Fusion, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Time Factors