What Are the Basics of Osteomyelitis?

What is osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is the bone infection. It mostly affects the long bones of the legs and upper arms in children, and mostly affects the bones that make up the spine in adults.

Osteomyelitis can be successfully treated today. People may require surgery to remove parts of the bone that have died——followed by strong antibiotics delivered intravenously.


What causes osteomyelitis?

In most cases, osteomyelitis is caused by staphylococcus bacterium, a kind of germ commonly found on the skin or in the noses of even healthy individuals. Germs can enter a bone through the bloodstream, the infected tissue or the open wounds.

Besides the staphylococcus bacteria, other risk factors or causes include:

  • HIV or AIDs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hemodialysis
  • Problems that require intravenous lines or catheters
  • Circulation disorders
  • Weak immune system
  • Recent injury or orthopedic surgery
  • Illicit drugs


What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?

There may be no obvious signs or symptoms of osteomyelitis sometimes, but the obvious signs and symptoms of osteomyelitis are:

  • Pain in the infected areas
  • Nausea

  • Lost range of motion
  • Swelling, warmth and redness in the area of the infection
  • Fever or chills
  • Irritability or lethargy in young children


How to diagnose osteomyelitis?

A combination of tests and procedures to diagnose osteomyelitis and to determine which germ is causing infection are as follows:

Blood Tests
Blood tests may reveal elevated levels of white blood cells, and they can also reveal what germs are to blame if your osteomyelitis was caused by an infection in the blood.

Bone Biopsy
Bone biopsy can reveal what particular type of germ has infected your bone. Sometimes, it will insert a long needle through your skin and into your bone to take a biopsy.

Imaging Tests
The common imaging tests include X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), etc. They may provide detailed cross-sectional views of a person’s internal structures.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.