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 Table of Contents 
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 1044-1046  

Digital gangrene in spinal tuberculosis

Department of Neurology, North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Mawdiangdiang, Shillong, Meghalaya, India

Date of Submission09-Aug-2020
Date of Decision06-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance28-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Masaraf Hussain
Room 303, Department of Neurology, NEIGRIHMS, Mawdiangdiang, Shillong - 793 018, Meghalaya
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1618_20

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Though tuberculosis is commonly seen in India, uncommon manifestations like peripheral gangrene is also a possibility. Here we present a case of spinal tuberculosis, with peripheral gangrene.

Keywords: Gangrene, spinal, tuberculosis, vasculitis

How to cite this article:
Hussain M, Sharma SR, Synmon B, Hynniewta Y. Digital gangrene in spinal tuberculosis. J Family Med Prim Care 2021;10:1044-6

How to cite this URL:
Hussain M, Sharma SR, Synmon B, Hynniewta Y. Digital gangrene in spinal tuberculosis. J Family Med Prim Care [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 16];10:1044-6. Available from: https://www.jfmpc.com/text.asp?2021/10/2/1044/310284

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Scientific Name Search fection is found in more than one-third of the population globally.[1] The World Health Organization estimates a figure of 2.5 million cases of tuberculosis in India.[2] Spinal tuberculosis is a common manifestation of extrapulmonary tuberculosis, accounting for 2% of all cases of tuberculosis, and 15% of extrapulmonary tuberculosis cases. [Figure 1][3]
Figure 1: Digital gangrene

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Gangrene is a rare feature of tuberculosis, usually involving the digits, but may also involve other parts of the body.

Knowledge of the uncommon manifestations of a common disease like tuberculosis is important for primary care physicians as they are the doctors of first contact. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment from them will lead to improved outcome.

Here we report a case of spinal tuberculosis, with acral symmetrical digital gangrene of the toes, which is an uncommon manifestation of tuberculosis.

A lady of 30 years age complained of fever of low grade with weight loss, since 1 month, followed by low backache and weakness of the left lower limb. The weakness then involved the right lower limb, followed by the retention of urine. There was no history of trauma. She was a nonsmoker, and had no addiction. The symptoms were associated with pain over the toes of the left foot, along with the change of color of the left third, fourth, and fifth toes. The color of the left third toe rapidly changed to black, along with shrinkage of the toe.

Examination revealed sacral spinal tenderness, paraparesis (muscle power grade 3/5 in both lower limbs), with diminished deep tendon reflexes (bilateral knee and ankle reflexes), and mute plantar response bilaterally. Sensory examination revealed perianal sensory loss. There was no neurological deficits in the upper limbs. No cranial nerve deficits, higher mental function impairment, or signs of meningeal irritation was detected. There was blackening and shrinkage of left third toe, with tenderness and darkening over left fourth and fifth toes. All peripheral pulses were palpable. Other systemic abnormalities were not detected. There was no pallor, cyanosis, icterus, or peripheral lymphadenopathy. Clinically the diagnosis of Cauda equina syndrome, with digital gangrene of toes was made.

Blood investigations revealed a Hemoglobin of 9.0 gm/dl, and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) was 57 mm 1st hour. The random blood sugar, liver profile, renal profile, and lipid profile, were normal. Tuberculin test was positive, and Chest X-Ray was normal. Serological markers for HBV (Hepatitis B virus), HCV (Hepatitis C virus) and HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) were negative. Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) profile was negative.

MRI spine revealed irregularity of both the vertebral endplate and anterior aspect of vertebral bodies, with bone marrow edema and enhancement. There was T1 hypointense marrow in adjacent vertebra, with T2 hyperintense marrow, and disc. There was Gadolinium enhancement of marrow, disc, and dura. The MRI findings were suggestive of Pott, s spine. Arterial Doppler of lower limbs revealed sluggish flow, as suggested by the biphasic waveform.

CT guided FNAC of the spinal lesion revealed granulation tissue with caseous necrosis on Histopathological examination. Acid Fast Bacilli was detected on tissue smear.

The patient was started on Antituberculous treatment in accordance with RNTCP (Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program). Surgical consultation was taken for the Digital gangrene. They advised for amputation of the left third toe. The symptoms of digital gangrene on the other toes in the third month of therapy. However, the neurological symptoms did not recover completely.

  Discussion Top

Acral symmetrical digital gangrene was first reported by Hutchison in 1891.[4]

The manifestation of digital gangrene in tuberculosis has always been rare, and the explanation for it is still not clear. One report has suggested that the digital gangrene in tuberculosis may result from vasospasm or small vessel obstruction.[5] Parish and Rhode first described vasculitis due to tuberculosis in 1967.[6] Tuberculosis is known to cause large vessel vasculitis. It has been suggested that vasculitis is due to an immunologic reaction caused by the chronic stimulus of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, leading to thickening of vessel wall and stenosis of the vessels.[7] Tuberculosis has also been associated with small vessel vasculitis, like leukoclastic vasculitis. However, there is only one report of medium vessel vasculitis caused by tuberculosis.[8]

All cases of digital gangrene due to tuberculosis, cannot be explained by vasculitis. Digital gangrene with palpable pulses, may be explained by hyper aggregation of platelets, or due to hemodynamic instability.[5] Embolization of arterioles by tubercle bacilli may also cause digital gangrene. The peripheral gangrene of toes in our patient was probably due to hyperaggregation of platelets, as the peripheral pulses were palpable [Figure 2]. The presence of palpable pulses, suggest the absence of vasculitis.
Figure 2: MRI Spine showing Tuberculous diskitis

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Treatment of the digital gangrene in tuberculosis generally consists of Antituberculous therapy. Several agents like aspirin, vasodilators, tissue plasminogen activator,[9] has been suggested. Peripheral symmetrical gangrene has been successfully treated with epoprostenol and tissue plasminogen activator.[9] However, another study found the above modalities of treatment unsatisfactory.[5] Amputation and debridement may also be required if the gangrene is advanced.

Other causes of gangrene should also be excluded by appropriate clinical examination, and laboratory investigations.

  Conclusion Top

Tuberculosis has varied presentations. In an endemic region, even rare presentation like digital gangrene can be seen, which if treated appropriately shows recovery. However, at times, surgical amputation may be required for the gangrenous part.

Key points

  1. Peripheral gangrene is an uncommon manifestation of tuberculosis
  2. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent surgery
  3. Advanced gangrene requires amputation.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

World Health Organisation: Global tuberculosis control WHO report 2002, Geneva, Switzerland, WHO/CDS/TB/2001.287. Available from: www.who.int/gtb/publications/glonrep02/index.  Back to cited text no. 1
Global tuberculosis control 2015, WHO, Geneva, 2015. Available from: www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report.  Back to cited text no. 2
Chen CH, Chen YM, Lee CW, Chang YJ, Cheng CY, Hung JK. Early diagnosis of spinal tuberculosis. J Formosan Med Assoc 2016;115:825-36.  Back to cited text no. 3
Hutchison J. Notes on uncommon cases. Br Med J 1891;2:8-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
Prashant K, Girdhar KK, Raktima A. Symmetrical peripheral gangrene: Multifactorial association. A case report. Indian Anesth Forum 2006;1:1-3.  Back to cited text no. 5
Parish WE, Rhodes EL. Bacterial antigens and aggregated gamma globulin in the lesions of nodular vasculitis. Br J Dermatol 1967;79:131-47.  Back to cited text no. 6
Stratta P, Messuerotti A, Canavese C, Coen M, Luccoli L, Bussolati B, et al. The role of metals in autoimmune vasculitis: Epidemiological and pathogenic study. Sci Total Environ 2001;270:179-90.  Back to cited text no. 7
Yao Y, Liu B, Wang JB, Li H, Liang HD. Tuberculosis should not be ignored in patients with peripheral gangrene. J Vasc Surg 2010;52:1662-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
Denning DW, Gilliland L, Hewlett A, Hughes LO, Reid CD. Peripheral symmetrical gangrene successfully treated with epoprostenol and tissue plasminogen activator. Lancet 1986;2:1401-2.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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