Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that is caused by bacteria or other germs.
Bone infection; Infection - bone
Bone infection is most often caused by bacteria. It can also be caused by fungi or other germs.
When a person has osteomyelitis:
In children, the long bones of the arms or legs are most often involved. In adults, the feet, spine bones (vertebrae), and hips (pelvis) are most commonly affected.
Risk factors are:
People who have had their spleen removed are also at higher risk of osteomyelitis.
Symptoms may include the following:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about the symptoms you're having.
Tests that may be ordered include:
The goal of treatment is to stop the infection and reduce damage to the bone and surrounding tissues.
Antibiotics are given to destroy the bacteria causing the infection:
Surgery may be needed to remove dead bone tissue if you have an infection that does not go away:
Infection that occurs after joint replacement may require surgery to remove the replaced joint and infected tissue in the area. A new prosthesis may be implanted in the same operation. More often, doctors wait until the infection has gone away.
If you have diabetes, it will need to be well controlled. If there are problems with blood supply to the infected area, such as the foot, surgery to improve blood flow may be needed to get rid of the infection.
If you were treated in the hospital for your osteomyelitis, be sure to follow instructions on how to care for yourself at home.
With treatment, the outcome for acute osteomyelitis is usually good.
The outlook is worse for those with long-term (chronic) osteomyelitis. Symptoms may come and go for years, even with surgery. Amputation may be needed, especially in people with diabetes or poor blood circulation.
The outlook for people with an infection of a prosthesis depends partly on:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Berbari EF, Steckelberg JM, Osmon DR. Osteomyelitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 106.
Dabov GD. Osteomyelitis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 21.
Review Date: 5/1/2015
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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