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Osteomyelitis | Overview

Osteomyelitis is the term for a bone infection. Bacteria or viruses in your child's bloodstream or tissue may infect a bone, causing osteomyelitis. Infection is more common in the long bones of the body, but it can affect any bone.

  • Osteomyelitis is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.
  • It's more common in premature infants and babies born with complications.
  • The treatment for osteomyelitis usually involves antibiotics.
  • In rare and severe cases, a bone may need to be amputated.

What causes osteomyelitis?

Many different types of bacteria and viruses can cause osteomyelitis. The most common type of bacteria is called Staphylococcus aureus (commonly called staph). The bacteria can enter the body in a variety of ways including:

  • infected wounds
  • open fractures (when broken bones penetrate through the skin)
  • foreign object penetrating the skin
  • infected joints
  • infection that spreads from another source inside the body, such as ear infections
  • trauma

Is osteomyelitis common?

Osteomyelitis can occur in children of any age, but it's more common in premature infants and babies born with complications.

What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?

While symptoms can vary from child to child, the most common include:

  • tenderness or pain in the infected area
  • your child limits use or doesn't use the infected extremity at all
  • your child typically guards or protects this area from being touched or looked at
  • swelling and redness in the infected area
  • warmth around the infected area
  • fever

Osteomyelitis | Diagnosis and Treatments

How to diagnose osteomyelitis

Your child's doctor will take a complete medical history and do a physical exam and diagnostic tests. Some of those tests may include:

Treatment options for osteomyelitis 

If you suspect osteomyelitis, it's important to contact your doctor immediately. The goal of treatment is to relieve the pain and completely treat the infection. In most cases, the infection is cured with antibiotic medication. In severe cases, the infection can be very destructive to the bone, surrounding muscles, tendons and blood vessels, which may require the amputation of the infected limb.

Treatment may include:

  • antibiotics (to fight the infection)
  • pain medications
  • surgery (to clean out the infected area in and around the bone)

Osteomyelitis | Programs & Services