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 infection
drug useWeakened 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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You will be asked 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 scanMRI scan
The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.
The 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 chance of osteomyelitis: Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.Keep diabetes under 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
Carek PJ, Dickerson LM, Sack JL.
Diagnosis and management of osteomyelitis.
Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(12):2413-2420.
Osteomyelitis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/hic-osteomyelitis. Updated September 3, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Osteomyelitis. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/osteomyelitis.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
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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