In tuberculosis (TB) endemic areas, other pyogenic causes of spine involvement may be missed. The study aimed to describe TB and non-TB causes of spine involvement and identify features that can help in differentiating them.

A retrospective cohort study was conducted to screen the clinical records of all admitted patients (Kasturba Hospital, Manipal) in 2018-20 for a diagnosis of spondylitis and/or sacroiliitis. The clinical features, radiological findings, laboratory parameters, treatment details, and outcomes were compared among those diagnosed with confirmed TB, confirmed brucellosis, or confirmed pyogenic infection. A scoring system was also developed to differentiate spondylodiscitis due to tuberculous and pyogenic causes. The qualitative variables were compared using the Chi-square test, while quantitative variables were compared using the one-way analysis of variance test.

Of 120 patients with spine infections, a total of 85 patients were confirmed with the microbiological diagnosis of interest. Involvement of the thoracic spine, longer duration of illness, and caseous granulomatous reaction on histopathology was more common in TB patients. Male gender, involvement of lumbar vertebra, and neutrophilic infiltrate on histopathology were more common in brucellosis patients. Male gender, diabetes mellitus, involvement of lumbar vertebra, neutrophilic infiltrate on histopathology, leukocytosis, and increased C-reactive protein were more commonly seen in patients with pyogenic infection. The scoring system had a sensitivity and specificity of 75% and 91%, respectively, when used to differentiate TB from pyogenic infection.

In resource-limited settings, suggestive findings can be used to decide empiric therapy.

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