Patient Education

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial bone infection that can strike people of any age. In adults, osteomyelitis most frequently strikes the hips, vertebrae, or feet; in children, the ends of the long bones in the arms and legs are the most common site for the disease. Bone infection can occur as a result of an infection in another part of the body that then travels through the bloodstream and settles in the bone. The infection can initiate from a wound from surgery, injury, or an injection, as well as from an internal infection. Due to diabetic foot ulcers, diabetics are more prone to contracting osteomyelitis in their feet.

Symptoms of osteomyelitis include pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation at the site of the infection, fever, chills, and nausea. The symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually. It is diagnosed with tests and bone images to check for changes in the bone. Further testing of biopsies and cultures may be used to identify the type of bacteria causing the infection so that proper treatment can be administered. Treatment involves antibiotics and pain medication. The affected area may also be immobilized with a splint. If diagnosed early, osteomyelitis can be effectively treated using these measures.

The diagnosis and treatment of severe or chronic bone infections is a specialized field of medicine. In the United States, there are relatively few doctors with expertise with severe or chronic osteomyelitis.

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