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What is Potts disease?

Q: My friend has been diagnosed with Potts disease. What is the cause of this disease? What medicines should he take for this? Is this a serious disease?

A:The spinal column is made up of a number of bones named vertebrae. The spinal cord and nerves innervating the body and limbs pass through these vertebrae. Potts disease refers to tuberculosis of the vertebrae. Percival Pott, a great British surgeon, described this disease so well that succeeding doctors have used his name to define it. As with other organs and tissues in the body, the vertebrae are also subject to disease. When the tuberculosis bacteria (called Mycobacterium tuberculosis) invade one or more vertebrae, they damage these bones and make them brittle. The pus and fleshy tissue (termed granulations) produced by this disease can press upon the nerves and spinal cord that pass through the vertebrae and cause partial or complete paralysis of the body. Potts disease is thus a serious illness and needs prompt and prolonged treatment. When the vertebrae are still intact and where there is no compression of nerves or spinal cord, treatment consists of drugs to kill the tuberculosis bacteria. These drugs have to be taken for a long time for successful eradication of the infection. It is also important not to injure these fragile bones. Where evidence (clinical or on tests such magnetic resonance scan) is found of evidence of compression of nerves and spinal cord, surgery may be necessary.

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