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
- Pressure injuries
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.
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.
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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 Orthopaedic Association http://coa-aco.org
When It Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation https://whenithurtstomove.org
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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.
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