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Osteomyelitis

Pronounced: OS-tee-oh-my-uh-LITE-is

Definition

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be:

  • Acute—for a short time
  • Chronic—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.

Causes    TOP

Osteomyelitis is caused by specific bacteria.

Risk Factors    TOP

Osteomyelitis is more common in males, or in young children and older adults. Other factors that increase your chance of osteomyelitis include:

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Tenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
  • Drainage of pus
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue or irritability
  • Restricted movement of the area
  • A sore over a bone that does not heal

Skin Infection Spreading to Bone

Bone Infection
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis    TOP

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:

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.

Antibiotics

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

Surgery may be required to:

  • Clean infected bone via scraping and irrigating the area
  • Remove any fragments of dead bone or tissue that may prolong the infection

In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

Skin Graft    TOP

In some situations, your doctor may recommend a skin graft. The skin in the affected area is replaced with healthy skin taken from another part of your body.

Prevention    TOP

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 quit.

RESOURCES:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
http://www.niams.nih.gov
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

References:

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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 3, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 8, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Osteomyelitis. Nemours' Kids Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2013. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2015 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 6/19/2014

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