World Spine Day: Early Diagnosis Is The Key For Healthy Recovery Of Spinal TB Patients

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Pune, 16th October 2021: Being able to walk again has been a moment of great joy for a 35-year-old woman, who was affected by spinal tuberculosis that eventually led to a total loss of nerve sensations in her lower body.

Her family consulted the family doctor. The doctor suggested that it might be arthritis. But when medication did not help in improving the condition, the family consulted doctors at Sancheti hospital.

Delay in diagnosis landed her in total paraplegia. It’s been three months since she was unable to walk. “I was suffering from back pain for more than six months. Initially, I neglected it. After consulting many doctors and after a battery of tests I was diagnosed with spinal TB. Now, post-surgery, I can walk and I am free of back pain.”

Doctors mentioned that delay in diagnosis lands many spinal TB patients in paraplegia. Experts mentioned that it is important to understand that back pain can’t be only related to arthritis. Also, any form of severe back pain should be immediately consulted with the doctor.

Dr Shailesh Hadgaonkar, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon from Sancheti Hospital, said, “When she came to us, she had lost power in her leg. She had stopped walking. There was a weakness in her lower limbs. We saw some symptoms which indicated that it is spinal TB. The spine was completely compressed. We planned surgical treatment. We did complete decompression of the spinal nerve and removed the pus. When we tested this pus, it came positive for TB bacteria.”

Dr Hadgaonkar, further said, “We get to see early, mid and late-stage cases. But not all cases require surgery. Surgery is only for those who worsen and can not walk. In around 10 to 20 per cent of the newly diagnosed spinal TB cases, paraplegia is seen. Even if a patient has developed paraplegia there is always a good chance of recovery if treated early. If diagnosed early, the patient can be treated without any surgery required.”

India contributed to around 23 per cent of the global TB burden. The incidence of extrapulmonary TB is three per cent. Skeletal TB contributes to around 10 per cent of these three per cent. Experts said that spinal TB with paraplegia is a rare case.

Dr Vishal Chaudhari, an Orthopedic surgeon from Noble Hospital, said, “Spinal TB is often misdiagnosed as arthritis. It is important to spot correct symptoms. Spinal TB patients often lose weight and appetite, and they get excruciating pain even in deep sleep. The most common form of TB affects the lungs and is called ‘pulmonary TB’. But it may spread to other areas like the spine which is then called ‘extra-pulmonary TB’. TB infection can travel through blood from the lungs to reach the spinal column. This is more commonly seen in people wherein immunity is compromised due to any reason.

Diagnosis of spinal tuberculosis is often delayed due to a lack of specific symptoms. One has to have a high index of suspicion and good clinical acumen to diagnose it early. Any severe and prolonged back pain should be investigated and treated early.”