Osteomyelitis is an inflammation or infection of the bone.
Osteomyelitis can occur as a result of an injury to the bone, or an infection in the body carried by the blood to the bone. The infection may be acute or chronic.
In adults, the pelvis and vertebrae are the most common sites. In children, the long bones are most likely to be affected.
Necrotic (Dead) Tissue and Underlying Osteomyelitis
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
- Age: Young children and older adults
- Sex: Male
- Trauma or injury to the bone or skin
- Broken bones, especially if open to or sticking through the skin
- Diabetes mellitus
- Kidney dialysis
- Intravenous drug abuse
- Weakened immune system
- Poor circulation
- Sickle cell anemia
- Artificial joints, such as a hip replacement
- Prosthetic bone devices, such as screws, plates, or wires
- Bone pain
- Fever or chills
- Tenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
- Drainage of pus
- Fatigue or irritability
- Restricted movement of the area
- A sore over bone that does not heal
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
- Blood Tests–to check for signs of infection
- Needle Aspiration–use of a needle to remove a sample for testing and culture
- Bone Biopsy–removal of a sample of bone to test for abnormal cells
- X-Ray–bone and tissue changes on x-ray may indicate osteomyelitis
- Bone Scan–a series of pictures of bones taken after injection of a small amount of radioactive material that highlights the bones
- CT or MRI–radiographic tests to evaluate for any bone changes that may indicate osteomyelitis
Osteomyelitis is treated with antibiotics. They are given intravenously and sometimes orally. Acute osteomyelitis is treated for at least 4-6 weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis may require antibiotics for a longer period of time. The doctor may immobilize the affected area with a splint and recommend avoiding any weight bearing on the area.
For chronic infection, surgery may be required to:
- Clean infected bone via scraping and irrigating the area
- Remove any fragments of dead bone or tissue that may prolong the infection
In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.
In some situations, the doctor may recommend a skin graft. The skin in the affected area is replaced with healthy skin taken from another part of the body.
To reduce your risk of getting osteomyelitis:
- Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.
- Keep diabetes under good control.
- Do not use illegal drugs.
- See your doctor for any sores that do not heal.