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Introduction: We have previously demonstrated significantly elevated IgG titres (ELISA) to a glycolipid antigen found in the cell wall of most gram positive bacteria in patients with discogenic radiculitis (sciatica).

This raised the possibility that the inflammation associated with disc protrusion might be initiated or accelerated by the presence of bacteria.

Aim of the study: To confirm whether bacteria were present in the disc material harvested at the time of discectomy. To determine whether the presence of bacteria correlated with elevation of Anti Lipid S antibody levels. To compare these results with Antibody levels and disc specimens from patients undergoing surgery for indications other than radiculitis.

Methods: This was a prospective study. Recognising the frequency of contamination in clean wound culture stringent aseptic precautions were taken. Disc material was harvested from 108 microdiscectomy patients with sciatica.

Disc material was also obtained from 11 patients undergoing discectomy for other indications (trauma, tumour scoliosis). Serology was obtained for all these patients.

Results: In the microdiscectomy group 50/112 (45%) had positive cultures after seven days incubation, of which 15 (30%) had positive serology. Thirty-one patients had Propionibacteria, nine Coagulase negative Staphylococci (CNS), six Propionibacteria and CNS, one Corynebacterium and three mixed growth.

Sixty-two (55%) patients had negative cultures and all except one had negative serology. There was a significant difference between patients with positive serology and culture compared with those with negative serology and culture (Fischer exact test P< 0.01). In some patients organisms were visible on microscopy prior to culture.

Thirteen of those with postive cultures and 25 of those with negative cultures had had one or more epidural injections prior to surgery. Epidural injection was not found to be significantly associated with postive culture.

None of the patients undergoing surgery for other indications had positive serology or positive cultures.

Conclusion: A significant proportion of patients with discogenic radiculitis have positive cultures with low virulence Gram positive organisms (predominantly Propionibacteria) and in a proportion a corresponding appropriate antibody response.

Abstracts prepared by Mr J. Dorgan. Correspondence should be addressed to him at the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, Alder Hey, Eaton Road, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK

President’s Lecture: Natural history and management of Congenital Kyphosis and Kyphoscoliosis M.J. McMaster, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Greg Houghton Lecture: Idiopathic Scoliosis – Alternatives to traditional surgery R.R. Betz, Philadelphia, USA

Instructional Lecture:New thoughts on the treatment of paralytic scoliosis R.R. Betz, Philadelphia, USA

Keynote Lectures: Idiopathic Scoliosis – How to manage the patient R.A. Dickson, Leeds, UK

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