What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an infection of a bone. Patients may experience pain and tenderness over the affected region, and may feel unwell. Osteomyelitis is a serious infection, and requires treatment with antibiotics. Surgery may be needed if the infection becomes severe or persistent.

How do you get Osteomyelitis?

Infections can reach a bone by traveling through the bloodstream or spreading from nearby tissue. Infections can also begin in the bone itself if an injury exposes the bone to germs from an open wound in the skin.

Who is at risk of developing Osteomyelitis?

In theory, anyone can develop Osteomyelitis however some people are at higher risk than others. Some of those at high risk include:

• People who have recently broken a bone, in particular those who have suffered an open fracture.

• People who have recently had surgery to a bone.

• People with chronic health conditions such as Diabetes or Chronic kidney disease.

• People with a poor or weakened immune system e.g. on chemotherapy or steroids.

What are the symptoms of Osteomyelitis?

The most common symptoms patients with osteomyelitis experience include:

• Pain and tenderness over the affected bone

• Swelling

• Redness of the skin

• Fever

How do we diagnose Osteomyelitis?

As part of your hospital admission, you will undergo the following in order to diagnose Osteomyelitis:

• Physical examination

• Medical history taking

• Blood tests

• X-rays

• Bone scan

• Computed tomography (CT) scan

• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

• Bone tissue biopsy.

What is the treatment for Osteomyelitis?

As with many other infections, infections of the bone are treated with antibiotics. However, treatment of osteomyelitis may also require surgery. This is because infection of the bone can leave the bone weakened or even cause the bone to die therefore rendering the antibiotics ineffective. Therefore, in order to treat the osteomyelitis, we may need to remove the infected or dead bone to improve the chance of overcoming the infection.

In some rare circumstance, amputation of a limb may be required if the infection persists in the bone and does not clear with any other treatment.

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