Differentiation between Tuberculous and Pyogenic Spondylodiscitis: The Role of the Anterior Meningovertebral Ligament in Patients with Anterior Epidural Abscess

S. B. Strauss, S. R. Gordon, J. Burns, J. A. Bello, S. E. Slasky

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Differentiation between tuberculous and pyogenic spondylodiscitis is a diagnostic challenge because imaging often does not reliably distinguish the 2 entities and percutaneous biopsies are often culture-negative. The purpose of this study was to determine whether violation of the anterior meningovertebral ligament in the setting of anterior epidural abscess discriminates between these entities. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of all patients with acid-fast bacillus testing and anterior epidural abscess diagnosed on spinal MR imaging between May 2014 and September 2019, with a final diagnosis of tuberculous or pyogenic spondylodiscitis. Six cases of tuberculous spondylodiscitis (mean age, 45.5 years; 80% male) and 35 cases of pyogenic spondylodiscitis were evaluated (mean age, 56.6 years; 49% male). Demographic characteristics were recorded. Cases were assessed for anterior meningovertebral ligament destruction on MR imaging, as demonstrated by the shape of the epidural collection. Segmental location of the infection was also assessed. Independent 2-sample t tests and χ2 tests of independence were performed to evaluate the significance of the difference between the groups. RESULTS: Five of 6 (83.3%) cases of tuberculous epidural abscess had an intact anterior meningovertebral ligament, and 0/35 cases of pyogenic epidural abscess demonstrated an intact ligament (P < .001). The presence of an intact anterior meningovertebral ligament had 83.3% sensitivity and 100% specificity for tuberculous spondylodiscitis, a 100% positive predictive value, and a 97.2% negative predictive value. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of an intact anterior meningovertebral ligament has high sensitivity and specificity for tuberculous spondylodiscitis-associated epidural abscess, though these results should be validated in a larger sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-368
Number of pages5
JournalAJNR. American journal of neuroradiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology

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