Osteomyelitis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Osteomyelitis is an acute or chronic inflammatory process of the bone and its structures secondary to infection with pyogenic organisms. It can be usefully subclassifed on the basis of the causative organism, the route, duration and anatomic location of the infection. In kids and teens, osteomyelitis usually affects the long bones of the arms and legs. Bacteria can infect bones in a number of ways. Bacteria can travel into the bone through the bloodstream from other infected areas in the body. The infection that causes osteomyelitis often is in another part of the body and spreads to the bone via the blood. Affected bone may have been predisposed to infection because of recent trauma. The approach to osteomyelitis depends upon the route by which bacteria gained access to bone, bacterial virulence, local and systemic host immune factors, and patient age. Infections of the leg and arm bones and those of the vertebrae are usually acquired through the bloodstream. If left untreated, the infection can become chronic and cause a loss of blood supply to the affected bone. When this happens, it can lead to the eventual death of the bone tissue.

It is one of the more serious infections of childhood, and was once a major crippler of children in the days before antibiotics. People of any age can develop osteomyelitis, though it’s most common in children and people older than 50. The bacteria or fungus that can cause osteomyelitis, however, differs among age groups. In adults, osteomyelitis often affects the vertebrae and the pelvis. There are two forms of osteomyelitis – acute and chronic. Osteomyelitis may also occur where a piece of metal has been surgically attached to a bone, as is done to repair hip or other fractures. In addition, individuals with diabetes who develop foot ulcers are more susceptible. In any of these situations, the organism has a direct portal of entry into the affected bone. Osteomyelitis can affect both adults and children. People with osteomyelitis often feel severe pain in the infected bone. They may have fever and chills, feel tired or nauseated, or have a general feeling of not being well. The source of the blood infection is usually Staphylococcus aureus, although it may be caused by a different type of bacteria or fungal organism.

Causes of Osteomyelitis

The common causes and risk factor’s of Osteomyelitis include the following:

A result of an injury to the bone.

Intravenous drug users.

Prosthetic bone devices, such as screws, plates, or wires.

Poor circulation.

An infection in the body carried by the blood to the bone.

Artificial joints, such as a knee or hip.

Trauma to the skin or bones, such as surgery, deep skin cuts, and bone fractures or breaks.

Weakened immune system.

Fungal infection.

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis

Some sign and symptoms related to Osteomyelitis are as follows:

Pain in the bone.

Pus drainage on skin.

General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling ( malaise ).

Fever and chills.



Recurrent bone pain.

Weight loss.

Muscle spasm.

Ongoing, severe back pain that is worse with movement.

Treatment of Osteomyelitis

Here is list of the methods for treating Osteomyelitis:

Antibiotics will be given to destroy the bacteria that are causing the infection.

Bone grafting.

If antibiotic treatment fails, the infection may need to be surgically removed. Surgery may include draining the infection, removing infected bone and rebuilding the spine.

A new prosthesis may be implanted in the same operation or delayed until the infection has resolved, depending on its severity.

Hyperbaric oxygen.

Spinal instrumentation and fusion may be used to correct spinal deformity and provide permanent stability to the spinal column.