Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone, a rare but serious condition. Bones can often become infected in a number of ways: Infection in one part of the body may spread through the bloodstream into the bone, or an open fracture or surgery may expose the bone to infection.

Cause & Symptoms

Cause

In most cases, a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria, causes osteomyelitis.

Certain chronic conditions like diabetes may increase your risk for osteomyelitis.

Symptoms

Acute osteomyelitis develops rapidly over a period of seven to 10 days. The symptoms for acute and chronic osteomyelitis are very similar and include:

  • Fever, irritability, fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Tenderness, redness, and warmth in the area of the infection

  • Swelling around the affected bone

  • Lost range of motion

Osteomyelitis in the vertebrae makes itself known through severe back pain, especially at night.

 

Diagnosis

Identifying osteomyelitis is the first step in treatment.  Your physician relies on X-rays, blood tests, MRI, and bone scans to get a picture of what’s going on. A bone biopsy is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of osteomyelitis. This also helps determine the type of organism, typically bacteria, causing the infection so the right medication can be prescribed.

Treatment Options

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Treatment focuses on stopping infection in its tracks and preserving as much function as possible. Most people with osteomyelitis are treated with antibiotics, surgery, or both.

Antibiotics help bring the infection under control and often make it possible to avoid surgery. People with osteomyelitis usually get antibiotics for several weeks through an IV, and then switch to a pill form.

More serious or chronic osteomyelitis requires surgery to remove the infected tissue and bone. Osteomyelitis surgery prevents the infection from spreading further or getting so bad that amputation is the only remaining option.