Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be:
- Acute—for a short time
- Chronic—lasting for a long time
In adults, the pelvis and the bones of the back are the most common sites. In children, the long bones are most likely to be affected. These are found in the arms and legs.
This infection is caused by a bacteria.
Factors that increase your chance of osteomyelitis include:
- Bone pain
- Fever or chills
- Tenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
- Drainage of pus
- Fatigue or irritability
- Restricted movement of the area
- A sore over a bone that does not heal
Skin Infection Spreading to Bone
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Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.
This infection is treated with antibiotics. They are given by IV and sometimes by mouth. Acute osteomyelitis is treated for at least 4-6 weeks. Chronic osteomyelitis may require antibiotics for a longer period of time.
Surgery may be required to:
- Clean infected bone via scraping and irrigating the area
- Remove any fragments of dead bone or tissue that may prolong the infection
In severe cases,
may be necessary.
In some situations, your doctor may recommend a
skin graft. The skin in the affected area is replaced with healthy skin taken from another part of your body.
If you are diagnosed with osteomyelitis, follow your doctor's
To reduce your risk of getting osteomyelitis:
- Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.
- Keep diabetes under good control.
- Do not use illegal drugs.
- See your doctor for any sores that do not heal.
If you smoke,
Bone and joint infections.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter. February 26, 2001.
Carek PJ, Dickerson LM, et al.
Diagnosis and management of osteomyelitis.
Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(12).
Osteomyelitis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
. Updated January 12, 2009. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Osteomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated April 11, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2013.
Osteomyelitus. Nemours' KidsHealth website. Available at:
. Updated January 2010. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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