Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
This review article includes infections of the vertebral body, intervertebral disc, ligaments and paravertebral soft tissues, epidural space, meninges and subarachnoid space, and the spinal cord. A wide range of infective organisms may be implicated and the incidence of some, notably tuberculosis, is rising due to increased immunocompromise and other factors. Imaging plays a key role in early diagnosis of these diseases, which may be severe and potentially life threatening. Infection may be acquired by the hematogenous route, by infection from contiguous structures or from direct inoculation. Of available imaging techniques, CT and MRI offer the clinically most valuable methods of evaluating all the structures potentially involved in infection. Although many signs are non-specific, indication is given of where appearances raise strong suspicion of infection. The extent of the inflammatory process is well evaluated by imaging, particularly in terms of severity and morbidity of clinical sequelae, which may be severe. Early investigation is mandatory and as MRI presently has the key role in investigation, it should be employed at an early stage of clinical suspicion.