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News 2008
Two per cent of TB patients are at risk for Spinal TB

March 31, 2008

“Spinal tuberculosis occurs in about 1 to 2 per cent of people with TB - the most common infectious disease in the world,” Dr Gohar Javed, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi (AKUH,K) informed at a Signs, Symptoms and Care programme in Hyderabad.

Dr Javed said, “The disease can have a major impact on people's lives. Nerves can be squeezed causing pain, loss of feeling and breathing problems. It can cause bone loss and curvature of the spine, which can lead to loss of nerve function and paralysis after some years, even if TB has been cured.”

Also called Pott's disease, spinal TB typically causes back pain, night sweats, fever, weight loss and anorexia in patients. They may also develop a spinal mass, which results in tingling, numbness or a general feeling of weakness in the leg muscles. Often, the pain causes the sufferer to walk in a stiff, upright position.

Since spinal TB is caused by a bacterial infection, prevention is possible through proper control. “The best method for preventing the disease is to reduce or eliminate the spread of tuberculosis. In addition, testing for tuberculosis is an important preventative measure,” he advised. A variety of options are used to treat the disease. Surgery may be necessary, especially to drain spinal abscesses or to stabilise the spine.

Low back pain is a very common problem and the symptom may have a long list of underlying causes. There are a large number of patients in which no cause can be identified even after thorough investigations. “The pain is often caused by overuse, strain, or injury. For instance, people often hurt their backs playing sports or working in the yard, being jolted in a car accident, or lifting something too heavy. Aging plays a part too,” he added. 

The good news is that most low back pain will go away in a few weeks with some basic self-care. But if the pain is severe or lasts more than a couple of weeks, patients are advised to see a doctor. Surgery may be considered if severe back pain is due to an operable cause.

As part of its outreach programme and societal commitment of creating awareness of early diagnosis and timely treatment, AKUH,K organises such programmes. The Hospital has organised over 300 Signs, Symptoms and Care programmes in Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta and the UAE, benefiting more than 40,000 people.

Similarly, Aga Khan University Hospital 's Patient Welfare Programme reaches out to patients by providing assistance to those patients who are unable to afford the medical cost of their treatment. 73 per cent of all patients treated at the AKUH,K are from low- to middle-income areas. Since the inception of this welfare programme in 1986, PKR 2 billion has been disbursed to more than 300,000 needy patients.