Bone Infections (Osteomyelitis)

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone that most commonly affects the long bones, such as in the leg, upper arm, spine or pelvis. This condition can be acute or chronic; children are prone to acute cases while adults are more often affected by a chronic form. Osteomyelitis is caused by an infection that develops in the bone or spreads to the bone from another area, and may result in the formation of an abscess in the bone that blocks blood supply.

Most patients have bones that are resistant to infection, making osteomyelitis more common in patients with weakened bones or immune systems. This includes patients who have poor circulation or have recently been injured or undergone orthopedic surgery.

Patients with osteomyelitis may experience:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

The symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection and the age of the patient. If these symptoms are present, your doctor may perform a series of tests to diagnose the condition, including blood tests, X-rays, bone biopsy and other imaging procedures.

Chronic cases of osteomyelitis often require surgery and antibiotics to thoroughly treat and eliminate the infection. Surgery may include draining pus or fluid from the infected area, removing diseased bone and tissue or restoring blood flow to the bone. A bone or tissue graft may be needed after these procedures are performed. Acute cases of osteomyelitis can often be treated with antibiotics alone.

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