Osteomyelitis is a bone infection. It is mainly 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:
Symptoms of osteomyelitis are not specific and vary with age. Main symptoms include:
The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. The exam may show 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 the above methods fail:
Infection that occurs after joint replacement may require surgery. This is done 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 antibiotic course is finished and 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 may be needed to improve blood flow in order to get rid of the infection.
With treatment, the outcome for acute osteomyelitis is often 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:
Contact your provider if you:
Matteson EL, Osmon DR. Infections of bursae, joints, and bones. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 256.
Raukar NP, Zink BJ. Bone and joint infections. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 128.
Tande AJ, Steckelberg JM, Osmon DR, Berbari EF. Osteomyelitis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 104.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 3/10/2022
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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