Spinal infection poses a demanding diagnostic and treatment problem for which a multidisciplinary approach with spine surgeons, radiologists, and infectious disease specialists is required. Infections are usually caused by bacterial microorganisms, although fungal infections can also occur. Most patients with spinal infections diagnosed in the early stages can be successfully managed conservatively with antibiotics, bed rest, and spinal braces. In cases of gross or pending instability, progressive neurological deficits, failure of conservative treatment, spinal abscess formation, severe symptoms indicating sepsis, and failure of previous conservative treatment, surgical treatment is required.
A 64-year-old male presented to the Outpatient Department with a complaint of pain in bilateral upper extremities for 4 months. The pain was shooting in type, radiating to bilateral arms, forearms, and hands with no aggravating and relieving factors. He is a known case of carcinoma pyriform sinus for which he underwent various cycles of chemotherapy. Ten years later, a tracheostomy was performed for laryngeal edema, and again, an endoscopic gastrostomy was performed due to feeding difficulties. He then developed fever and cervical pain along with pain in the bilateral upper extremities. An infectious etiology was suspected for which multiple antibiotics were started with no positive response. An MRI was performed, which was suggestive of spondylodiscitis probably of tubercular origin. A biopsy was done to confirm the diagnosis, following which antitubercular (HRZE) therapy was started. He was also treated with Duloxetine and gabapentin, which resulted in minor improvements. Subsequent MRIs showed diffuse involvement of the multiple cervical vertebrae along with cord compression. Two stages of anterior corpectomy followed by posterior instrumentation were done. Following the procedure, the patient developed an infection, which was managed with antibiotics. The titanium implant was not removed. A muscle graft was planned with the pectoralis muscle and flap closure was done. The tissue was also sent for Gram stain, AFB stain, and GeneXpert, which showed normal findings. Finally, in tissue culture, Candida albicans was isolated. On performing the enzyme immunoassay test, it was found to be Aspergillus (Galactomannan antigen) positive as well. Antitubercular treatment was stopped. Then, he was managed with an antifungal, oral voriconazole, for the duration of 1 and a half years.
Patients diagnosed with Candida spondylodiscitis tend to have favorable outcomes, likely linked to timely identification, thorough surgical debridement, and proper azole medication. Our case achieved success by promptly identifying and confirming it through tissue culture, detecting spinal cord compression, decompressing it, and initiating specific antifungal treatment. A delay in commencing antifungal therapy has been associated with poorer outcomes, especially in neurological health. Our patient received voriconazole for a full year, suggesting that favorable outcomes are achievable for fungal spondylodiscitis with swift and appropriate surgery and antifungal medication.
In summary, evaluation for fungal infection is essential in all cases of unexplained spinal infection in immunocompromised patients, regardless of presentation. If the antifungal treatment proves ineffective, a surgical approach is typically employed for the management of fungal spondylodiscitis. Our report details a successful case of fungal spondylodiscitis treated with a surgical approach and highlights the potential for a fungal infection to be a causative factor in noncompressive myelopathy, which may be sometimes mistaken for radiation myelitis.