Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be:
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:
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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:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
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:
In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.
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.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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 September 3, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 8, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Osteomyelitis. Nemours' Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/bones/osteomyelitis.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2015 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 6/19/2014