Michelle Badash, MS
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. It may be:
Acute—last a short time
Chronic—lasts a long time
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
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
Symptoms may cause:
Fever or chills
Soreness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
Drainage of pus
Problems moving a certain area
A sore over a bone that doesn't heal
Skin Infection Spreading to Bone
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:
A physical exam
Samples taken from infected tissue
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.
replaces removed tissue and closes the wound. Healthy skin from some other part of the body is used.
may be the only care for severe infections.
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
https://orthoinfo.org CANADIAN RESOURCES
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:
. 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