Spondylodiscitis is an increasingly diagnosed condition with significant morbidity and mortality. A key aspect of management is a protracted course of targeted antimicrobial therapy, ideally tailored to the organisms isolated from appropriate microbiological specimens in accordance with Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines (2015). When consulted regarding possible discitis, we routinely recommend blood cultures and disc biopsy, particularly if blood cultures are negative.


We undertook a retrospective audit of patients presenting over 6 years with a radiological diagnosis of discitis with the primary objective of determining the proportion of patients who had appropriate microbiological investigation either via blood culture or biopsy.


42 patients met the inclusion criteria. Blood cultures were positive with organisms likely to be the causative agent in 50% of patients. Of the 50% of patients with negative blood cultures, 57% went on to have a successful spinal biopsy. Biopsies proved positive in 75% of cases. 8 patients with negative blood cultures did not progress to biopsy at the time of diagnosis and four suffered some degree of harm. One of these patients failed empirical anti-staphylococcal therapy and later required spinal stabilization due to destruction of the spinal disc was proven to have pseudomonas infection at the time of the corrective surgery.


19% of patients with discitis did not have appropriate disc sampling prior to commencement of antibiotic therapy. 50% of these suffered some degree of harm. This strengthens the case for recommending appropriate sampling prior to initiation of therapy, unless absolutely contraindicated.


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