Osteomyelitis: Bone Infection

The human body has a variety of natural defense mechanisms, including those that protect against infections. These defenses can be quite effective, but they are certainly not perfect and everyone is susceptible to a wide range of illness and disease, one of which is osteomyelitis. This bone infection was once thought to be incurable, but it can be successfully treated. Early treatment is more effective, so it is important to understand the condition and what to look for.

Osteomyelitis: An Introduction

Osteomyelitis is rare, but serious, and consists of a bone becoming infected. This condition is often caused by a form of staph bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus that travels through the bloodstream or spreads from nearby tissue. People who live with diabetes and various other chronic conditions are more likely to develop this condition than otherwise healthy individuals.

Other factors that increase the risk of the infection include alcoholism, recent injury, poor blood supply or flow, and intravenous drug use. In the instances of injury, infection can set in when bone tissue is exposed to germs or bacteria.

This particular bone infection affects both children and adults. Children are more likely to develop it in their long bones, like those in the legs and arms, and have acute cases. Adults are prone to developing osteomyelitis in the bones that comprise the spine (vertebrae), but it can also occur in the feet and may have either acute or chronic cases. Acute cases develop more quickly, are treated more easily, with better outcomes than the chronic condition.

Know the Symptoms

Symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area
  • Lethargy and irritability in younger children
  • Pain in the area of the infection

When the feet or leg bones are infected, the pain can be debilitating. If you have worsening foot pain and a fever, make an appointment with our office right away. Early detection of infection and treatment leads to greater success in taking care of the problem.

Treating Osteomyelitis

Diagnosing this form of bone infection is the first step in treating it, but doing so isn’t easy. Blood tests, X-rays, MRI, and bone scans are needed to provide an accurate picture of the condition. Additionally, a bone biopsy is used to confirm the diagnosis and determine what type of organism is responsible. After the root cause has been established, it is possible to begin a medication regimen to attack the infection and hopefully avoid surgery.

Acute cases of osteomyelitis are easier to treat than chronic conditions, which are more common for adults than children. The risk of chronic osteomyelitis increases for those who have diabetes, HIV, or peripheral vascular disease.

In some cases, depending on the severity of the bone infection, osteomyelitis surgery is necessary. When this is required, there are several procedures that may be used:

  • Draining the infected area is used to eliminate any fluid or pus that has pooled in response to the infection.
  • Debridement is a procedure used to remove diseased tissue and bone. This option will take away as much of the affected bone as possible.
  • Empty space left from debridement may be filled with bone or tissue to help restore blood flow to the bone. This will aid in the formation of new, healthy bone.
  • As a last resort for particularly severe cases, amputation may become necessary.

Keeping Osteomyelitis Away

Preventing the onset of an infection is a preferable option to having to treat a diseased bone. The best method for preventing osteomyelitis is to be careful when cuts and scrapes happen. After suffering from an abrasion or cut, wash the wound completely and flush it out under running water for five minutes before bandaging it with a sterile bandage.

If you think that you may be suffering from osteomyelitis, make an appointment with our Palm Desert, CA office and see Dr. Harvey Danciger, DPM, at your earliest convenience. We will make sure you get the expert treatment that you need to put your foot pain to rest. Call (760) 568-0108 or use our online form to schedule a consultation today.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle