Table of Contents


What is osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone caused by bacteria, usually in the legs, arm or spine. It can either be acute (sudden and short-term) or chronic (a long-developing syndrome). It usually occurs when an infection in one part of the body is transported through the bloodstream to a bone in another location. It can also begin in the bone if an injury exposes the bone to germs. Osteomyelitis affects males and females in equal numbers. About 2 out of 10,000 people are affected per year. It is usually more common in children and adults past the age of 50. In children and teens, osteomyelitis most commonly affects the long bones of the legs and arms. In adults, however, it usually affects the vertebrae of the spine and hips.

What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?

Common symptoms of osteomyelitis include the following:
  • Bone pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Open wounds that may have pus
  • Malaise (a general feeling of discomfort or illness)
  • Local swelling, redness and warmth at the site of the infection
  • Bone fragmentation

What causes osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria or fungi. The most common form of bacteria to cause it is Staphylococcus bacteria. It cannot be inherited. Acute osteomyelitis is a bone inflammation that can be caused by a previous trauma, puncture wound, surgery, or infection. Chronic osteomyelitis usually occurs after an episode of acute osteomyelitis when the infection has not been completely cured. Other risk factors include: recent trauma, diabetes, hemodialysis, intravenous drug abuse, and removal of the spleen.

How is osteomyelitis diagnosed?

Osteomyelitis is diagnosed using the following procedures:
  • Bone scans, X-rays, and MRIs
  • Blood tests
  • Bone biopsies

What are the treatments for osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis treatment includes:
  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery to remove portions of the bone that have died or fractured
  • Bone graft
  • In very severe cases, amputation

Where can I find out more about osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis Articles