Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that is caused by bacteria or other germs.
Bone infection is most often caused by bacteria. But 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.
Exams and Tests
A physical exam shows bone tenderness and possible swelling and redness in the area around the bone.
Tests may include:
The goal of treatment is to get rid of 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 requiare 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.
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:
Dabov GD. Osteomyelitis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 21.
Matteson EL, Osmon DR. Infections of bursae, joints, and bones. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 280.
Review Date: 5/12/2014
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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