Bacteria or fungal organisms may cause infection in the vertebral column, the intervertebral discs, the dural sac, or in the space around the spinal cord. Infections in these areas may occur for a variety of reasons.
The most likely occurrence of spinal infection may develop between three days to three months post surgery. Patients with certain inherent risk factors such as immune suppression, poor nutrition, HIV infection, diabetes, obesity, and cancer are the most at risk.
Other factors include lengthy surgical procedures, reoperations, and the instrumentation itself. Despite the numerous preventative measures that are followed, infections do occur in approximately 4-10 percent of all surgical cases. Of course, the possibility of infection increases proportionately with the number of operations performed in any given area and in patients with associated conditions such as obesity, diabetes, tobacco usage and immunosuppression.