BackgroundPyogenic spondylodiscitis (PSD) is challenging to the orthopedist with regards to diagnosis and treatment. The present study was designed to assess and suggest the most indicative diagnostic method and evaluate the effect of surgery comprising of debridement, instrumentation and fusion in treating PSD.MethodsSeventy-six patients with PSD who underwent surgical intervention were retrospectively enrolled. Their medical documents, corrections of spinal alignment and improvements in neurological function were assessed. Surgical approaches were compared in lumbar surgeries regarding the improvements in lordotic angle and neurological function.ResultsElevated c-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were found in 77.6 and 71.1% patients respectively. Infectious lesions were found at lumbar (85.5%), cervical (10.5%) and thoracic (3.9%), ascertained with contrast-enhanced MRI. For lumbar patients, surgery was performed through the anterior (26.2%), posterior (49.2%) or combined approach (24.6%), and differences in improvement of lordosis and neurological function between each approach were insignificant. The pathogen was identified in 22.4% of the patients. Postoperative antibiotic therapy was managed against the result of susceptibility test, or empirically given to patients with negative cultures. All antibiotic therapy was initiated intravenously for 4–6 weeks and orally for 6 weeks.ConclusionElevated CRP and/or ESR, with focal hyper-intensity on contrast-enhanced MRI are suggestive of possible PSD. Surgical intervention comprising of debridement, short-segment instrumentation and fusion that early applied to the PSD patients followed by postoperative antibiotic therapy have demonstrated preferable outcomes, but require further study.The translational potential of this articleThis article advocates early surgery to enable prompt diagnosis and treatment of PSD, and thus guarantee favorable outcomes for patients, as is shown in our study. In addition, different surgical approaches to the lesions were compared and discussed in this manuscript, but no differences in outcome between approaches were found. This suggests that thorough debridement should be prioritized over selection of surgical approach. In summary, this article has large translational potential to be applied clinically.