Diskitis is swelling (inflammation) and irritation of the space between the bones of the spine (intervertebral disk space).
Diskitis is an uncommon condition. It is usually seen in children younger than 10 years and in adults around 50 years of age. Men are more affected than women.
Diskitis can be caused by an infection from bacteria or a virus. It can also be caused by inflammation, such as from autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks certain cells in the body.
Disks in the neck and low back are most commonly affected.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the symptoms.
Tests that may be ordered include any of the following:
The goal is to treat the cause of the inflammation or infection and reduce pain. Treatment may involve any of the following:
Children with an infection should fully recover after treatment. In rare cases, chronic back pain persists.
In cases of autoimmune disease, the outcome depends on the underlying condition. These are often chronic illnesses that need long-term medical care.
Complications may include:
Contact your provider if you or your child has back pain that does not go away, or problems with standing and walking that seem unusual for the child's age.
Mathew R, Hong DK. Diskitis. In: Long SS, Prober CG, Fischer M, Kimberlin DW, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 77.
Williams KD. Infections and tumors of the spine. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 42.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 9/20/2022
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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