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



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

  • Acute—last a short time
  • Chronic—lasts a long time

Causes    TOP

Certain bacteria cause osteomyelitis. They come in contact with bone tissue and start to grow. Bacteria can reach the bone through:

  • The bloodstream—blood can spread infection to other sites
  • A deep cut that exposes the bone to bacteria on the top of the skin
  • An infection in nearby tissue such as a skin ulcer

Risk Factors    TOP

Osteomyelitis is more common in adolescents and young adults. Your chances are also higher for:

  • Poor blood flow
  • Injured bones or skin
  • Recent joint surgery including fixing a broken bone
  • Soft tissue infection
  • Weakened immune system
  • IV drug use
  • Using a tube to drain urine or get medicine
  • Pressure injuries

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may cause:

  • Bone pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Soreness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
  • Drainage of pus
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Problems moving a certain area
  • A sore over a bone that doesn't heal

Skin Infection Spreading to Bone

Bone Infection

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:


Treatment    TOP

Care involves:


Antibiotics treat the infection. Acute osteomyelitis care can last up to 6 weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis needs care for a longer period of time. Medicines are through an IV or taken by mouth.


Surgery removes dead tissue and bone. Skin grafting replaces removed tissue and closes the wound. Healthy skin from some other part of the body is used.

Amputation may be the only care for severe infections.


Prevention    TOP

To lower your chances of osteomyelitis:

  • Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.
  • See your doctor for any sores that do not heal.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Canadian Orthopaedic Association

When It Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


Carek PJ, Dickerson LM, Sack JL. Diagnosis and management of osteomyelitis. Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(12):2413-2420.

Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116047/Osteomyelitis . Updated September 11, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2018.

Osteomyelitis. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2013. Accessed May 22, 2018.

Osteomyelitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/infections-of-joints-and-bones/osteomyelitis. Updated May 2017. Accessed May 22, 2018.

Osteomyelitis. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/health/osteomyelitis-leaflet. Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed May 22, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/22/2018

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Independence,� MO� 64057
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