Diskitis is swelling (inflammation) and irritation of the space between the bones of the spine (intervertebral disk space).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Diskitis is an uncommon condition. It is usually seen in children younger than age 10.
Diskitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or it can be caused by other inflammation, such as from autoimmune diseases (conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks certain cells in the body). The upper back (thoracic) and low back (lumbar) disks are most commonly affected.
Diskitis can also be confused with problems related to hip pain.
The goal is to treat the cause of the inflammation and reduce pain. Your child may receive antibiotics if the health care provider suspects an infection. Autoimmune diseases are often treated with anti-inflammatory medications.
If the condition does not improve, steroids may be given, although an infection should be ruled out first. Pain may be relieved with painkillers (analgesics) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Talk to the health care provider about the best choice of medications.
Bed rest or immobilization (which may require a brace) may be recommended in some cases.
Children with an infection should fully recover after treatment. Chronic back pain from this condition is very rare.
In cases of autoimmune disease, the outcome depends on the condition. These are often chronic illnesses.
Persistent back pain (rare)
Side effects of medications
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if your child has persistent back pain or problems with standing and walking that seem unusual for his or her age.
Cottle L, Riordan T. Infectious spondylodiscitis. J Infect. 2008;56:401-412.
Gutierrez KM. Diskitis. In: Long SS, ed. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 82.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.