Current Issue - March/April - Vol 24 Issue 2


  1. 2021;24;101-116Infections Following Interventional Spine Procedures: A Systematic Review
    Systematic Review
    Kristen Santiago, BA, Jennifer Cheng, PhD, Bridget Jivanelli, MLIS, and Gregory Lutz, MD.

BACKGROUND: Interventional spine procedures, such as discography, epidural steroid injections (ESIs), facet joint procedures, and intradiscal therapies, are commonly used to treat pain and improve function in patients with spine conditions. Although infections are known to occur following these procedures, there is a lack of comprehensive studies on this topic in recent years.

OBJECTIVES: To assess and characterize infections following interventional spine procedures.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review.

METHODS: Studies that were published from January 2010 to January 2020 and provided information on infections or infection rates following discography, ESIs, facet joint procedures, and intradiscal therapies were included. PubMed (Medline), EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases were searched, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Infection data were extracted from included studies, and infection rates were calculated for each procedure type. Case reports and infection-only articles were not included in infection rate calculations.

RESULTS: Seventy-two studies met the eligibility criteria and were included in the systematic review. The overall incidence of infection across all studies was 0.12% (231/200,588). The majority of studies (n = 51) were linked to ESIs. Infections related to ESIs were more common than those related to discography or facet joint procedures (0.13% [219/174,431] vs. 0% [0/269] or 0.04% [9/25,697], respectively). Intradiscal therapies had the highest calculated rate of infections (1.05%; 2/191). Quality assessments of the included studies ranged widely.

LIMITATIONS: There was an abundance of case reports in comparison to other study designs; to minimize skewing of the analysis, case reports and infection-only articles were not included in the infection rate. Studies that reported combined infection data for multiple procedures could not be included. Many cohort studies and case series were of lower quality because of their retrospective nature. Additionally, the true incidence of infections related to these procedures is unknown because the majority of these infections often go unreported, and information on regions of the spine and procedure details are often lacking.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on our systematic review, the risk of infections following interventional spine procedures appears to be low overall. More studies focusing on infectious complications with larger sample sizes are needed, particularly for intradiscal therapies, in which the microbiome may be an underlying cause of disc infection. To achieve a true incidence of the risk of infections with these procedures, large prospective registries that collect complication rates are necessary.

KEY WORDS: Infectious complications, infection incidence, interventional spine procedure, epidural steroid injection, discography, facet joint procedure, intradiscal therapies, biologics