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A 42-year-old woman presented to our hospital with weeks of worsening pain around her lower ribs. Preceding this, she was managed in primary care with anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy for presumed costochondritis. Assessment in accident and emergency suggested a tender right upper quadrant with fever and neutrophilia. A surgical review of the patient was requested to assess for cholecystitis or delayed pancreatitis. On direct questioning, the patient's back pain was the predominating symptom with no neurological deficit. To assess for delayed pancreatitis, CT imaging was obtained, demonstrating unremarkable intra-abdominal organs. There was also the incidental finding of thickened prevertebral soft tissues anterior to T9 and T10 vertebrae, with vertebral endplate irregularity locally. Subsequent MRI demonstrated typical appearances of infective spondylodiscitis at this level. The patient made a good recovery with intravenous antimicrobials. This case highlights how vertebrodiscitis can present insidiously and unexpectedly, manifesting as abdominal pain.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Case Rep

Publication Date





Abdominal Pain/*diagnosis/diagnostic imaging Administration, Intravenous Adult Anti-Bacterial Agents/administration & dosage Ceftriaxone/administration & dosage Diagnosis, Differential Discitis/*diagnosis/drug therapy/microbiology Female Humans Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods Thoracic Vertebrae/diagnostic imaging/pathology Treatment Outcome