Brucellar Spondylodiscitis: Case Series of the Last 25 Years

Ana Lebre, Jorge Velez, Diana Seixas, Eduardo Rabadão, Joaquim Oliveira, J. Saraiva da Cunha, A. Meliço Silvestre


Introduction: Brucellosis is an endemic zoonosis in Portugal. Brucellar spondylodiscitis is one of the most frequent focal manifestations which may cause severe sequelae despite appropriate therapy.
Material and Methods: Retrospective study of patients with diagnosis of brucellar spondylodiscitis admitted to the Infectious Diseases Department of Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra, over a 25-year period (1988-2012).
Results: We identified 54 patients, 55.6% male, mean age of 54.8 years. In 81.5% an epidemiological context was identified, mostly contact with sheep and goats. The duration of symptoms prior to diagnosis was 5.5 months. The most common signs and symptoms were pain (98.1%), fever (46.3%) and neurological deficits (25.9%). Spinal magnetic resonance imaging was the most used imaging method (77.8%) showing abscesses in 29.6% of patients. Lumbar location predominated (77.7%). Diagnosis was attained in 47 patients (87.0%): positive blood cultures (3 patients), positive serology (32 patients) or by both methods (12 patients). Combined regimens of doxycycline and rifampicin (64.8%), or streptomycin (24.1%) were most used, for an average duration of 4.4 months. A patient was referred for surgery for abscess drainage. Evolution was mostly favorable (92.6%), no deaths occurring.
Discussion: Research of the epidemiologic context turned out to be a major key leading to the diagnosis. Treatment of osteoarticular brucellosis is still controversial.
Conclusions: Brucellar spondylodiscitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients with low back pain, even in the absence of fever, particularly in regions where the disease is endemic. Antibiotic regimen, its’ duration and the need for surgery should be individualized to achieve a better prognosis. Cases have declined over the years, a fact related to better control of animal endemic.

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