Osteomyelitis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is osteomyelitis?
Osteomyelitis is a painful bone infection. This infection is mainly caused by bacteria, fungi, or other germs. The feet, spine bones (backbones), and hips are most commonly affected. In children, the long bones of the arms or legs are mostly affected.
What causes osteomyelitis?
Bone infection is mostly caused by bacteria, but it can also be caused by fungi or other germs. This infection occurs when bacteria, fungi, or other germs spread to a bone from infected skin, muscles, or tendons next to the bone. The infection can also start in another part of the body and spread to the bone through the blood. The infection can also occur after a bone surgery.
The following are the risk factors for osteomyelitis:
- Recent injury
- Surgery involving bones
- Poor blood supply
- Use of injected illegal drugs
- Weakened immune system
What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?
Symptoms of osteomyelitis vary with age and are not specific.
The following are the main symptoms:
- Bone pain
- Local swelling, redness, and warmth
- Open wound that may show pus
- Pain at the site of infection
- Excessive sweating
- Fever and chills
- General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
How is osteomyelitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms. The physical exam may reveal bone tenderness and possible swelling and redness in the area around the bone.
The doctor may do the following tests for confirmation of diagnosis:
- Blood culture
- Bone biopsy
- Bone scan
- Bone x-ray
- MRI of the bone
- Needle aspiration of the area of the affected bones
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
How is osteomyelitis treated?
The goal of treatment would be to get rid of the infection and reduce damage to the bone and surrounding tissues.
Your doctor may use antibiotics to destroy the bacteria causing the infection.
The doctor may recommend surgery to remove dead bone tissue if the above treatment doesn’t work. If bone infection occurs after joint replacement, surgery may be done to remove the replaced joint and infected tissue in the area. A new joint may be implanted in the same operation or later after the infection has gone away.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.