Osteomyelitis

Overview

Definition

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

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

Causes

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

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

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

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
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Diagnosis

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

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Samples taken from infected tissue
  • Bone biopsy
  • Imaging tests:
    • X-ray
    • MRI scan
    • CT scan
    • Bone scan
    • PET/CT scan

Treatments

Treatment

Care involves:

Antibiotics

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

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

To lower your chances of osteomyelitis:

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

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

RESOURCES

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases https://www.niams.nih.gov 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons https://orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://coa-aco.org 

When It Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation https://whenithurtstomove.org 

References

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: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/osteomyelitis.html. 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.