Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be: Acute—for a short timeChronic—lasting for a long time
In adults, the pelvis and the bones of the back are the most common sites. In children, the long bones are most likely to be affected. These are found in the arms and legs.
Osteomyelitis is caused by specific bacteria.
Osteomyelitis is more common in males, or in young children and older adults. Other factors that increase your chance of osteomyelitis include: Trauma
or injury to the bone and skin
Broken bones, especially if open to or sticking through the skinSoft tissue infectionDiabetesKidney dialysis
drug abuseWeakened immune systemPoor circulationSickle cell anemia
Any operation on a joint or bone, such as a
or internal fixation of a fracture
Symptoms include: Bone painFever or chillsTenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or jointDrainage of pusNauseaFatigue or irritabilityRestricted movement of the areaA sore over a bone that does not heal
Skin Infection Spreading to Bone
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Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsBone biopsy
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: X-rayBone scanCT scan
The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.
This infection is treated with antibiotics. They are given by IV and sometimes by mouth. Acute osteomyelitis is generally treated for at least 4-6 weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis may require antibiotics for a longer period of time.
Surgery may be required to: Clean infected bone via scraping and irrigating the areaRemove any fragments of dead bone or tissue that may prolong the infection
In severe cases,
may be necessary.
In some situations, your doctor may recommend a
. The skin in the affected area is replaced with healthy skin taken from another part of your body.
To reduce your risk of getting osteomyelitis: Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.Keep diabetes under good control.Do not use illegal drugs.See your doctor for any sores that do not heal.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully
Bone and joint infections.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter. February 26, 2001.
Carek PJ, Dickerson LM, et al.
Diagnosis and management of osteomyelitis.
Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(12).
Osteomyelitis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/hic-osteomyelitis.aspx. Updated January 12, 2009. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 25, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Osteomyelitis. Nemours' Kids Health website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/bones/osteomyelitis.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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