Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be:
In adults, the pelvis and the bones of the back are the most common sites. In children, the long bones are most likely to be affected. These are found in the arms and legs.
Osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria that comes in contact with bone tissue and begin to grow. The bacteria may reach the bone through:
Osteomyelitis is more common in adolescents and young adults. Other factors that increase your chance of osteomyelitis include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids, tissues, and bones may be tested to look for signs of infection. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of the affected bone to look for abnormalities. This can be done with:
The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.
The infection is treated with antibiotics. They are given by IV and sometimes by mouth. Acute osteomyelitis is generally treated for at least 4-6 weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis may require antibiotics for a longer period of time.
Surgery may be needed to remove dead tissue and bone. In some situations, a skin graft may be needed to replaced removed tissue and close the wound. The skin in the affected area is replaced with healthy skin taken from another part of the body.
In severe cases, amputation may be necessary.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Carek PJ, Dickerson LM, Sack JL. Diagnosis and management of osteomyelitis. Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(12):2413-2420.
Osteomyelitis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/hic-osteomyelitis. Updated September 3, 2014. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116047/Osteomyelitis. Updated June 27, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Osteomyelitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/infections-of-joints-and-bones/osteomyelitis. Updated October 2014. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Osteomyelitis. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/osteomyelitis.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Osteomyelitis. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/health/osteomyelitis-leaflet. Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.