What is osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone, caused by bacteria or fungi. Symptoms include bone pain, swelling, fever, aches and pains, and headache.

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The infection may occur at areas near the bone where there was trauma, such as a skin ulcer, surgery, or other injuries. It can start at the bone and spread to surrounding areas, such as the skin, muscles or tendons. Having implanted devices such as a plate, rod or prosthesis can increase the risk of infection. Infections may also spread to the bone from the bloodstream, and the use of injected drugs is also a risk factor.

In children, the long bones of the arms and legs are most commonly involved. When the infection occurs in adults, the spine, hips and feet are most often involved.

The standard treatment for osteomyelitis is antibiotics, although surgery is sometimes performed to remove dead bone tissue. Complications of osteomyelitis include chronic osteomyelitis, spread of infection to the bloodstream (sepsis), reduced limb function and, in severe cases, amputation.

In some cases, osteomyelitis can be a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have serious symptoms, including difficulty breathing, fainting, change in level of consciousness, lethargy, high fever, or symptoms of osteomyelitis that persist despite treatment.


What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?

Symptoms of osteomyelitis include bone pain and swelling in areas affected by the infection. You may also feel as if you have the flu, with fever and general discomfort. For diabetic patients the classic signs and symptoms of infection may be masked due to vascular disease and neuropathy.

Common symptoms of osteomyelitis


What causes osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that can be caused by a number of different bacteria or fungi. It can originate from an injury, skin ulcer, surgery, or other trauma to the bone. Osteomyelitis sometimes begins as an infection in other areas of the body and spreads through the blood to the bone. The infection can also involve the areas surrounding the affected bone, such as the skin, muscles or... Read more about osteomyelitiscauses


How is osteomyelitis treated?

Antibiotics are the standard treatment for osteomyelitis. They are given to treat the infection and minimize damage to the bone and tissues. Antibiotics may be administered orally or intravenously (through the vein), although they are usually given intravenously. It may be necessary for you to take more than one antibiotic, and treatment can last for up to six weeks.

Surgery desig... Read more about osteomyelitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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