A fancy name for a bone infection

What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection caused by bacteria. Germs and bacteria can get into a bone through your bloodstream or from surrounding tissues. In children, this condition most often occurs in the long bones of the arms and legs. Adults see osteomyelitis mostly in the vertebrae of the spine. This condition can occur:

  • If you have an infection in another part of your body, the germs can travel through your blood to a bone that has a weak spot.
  • If skin, muscles or tendons next to the bone are infected through an injury such as a puncture wound, the infection can spread to the bone.
  • If you sustain an injury where the bone is sticking out through your skin and becomes exposed to bacteria. During surgery after an injury, bones can be directly contaminated as well. These situations cause an infection to begin in the bone itself.

What are the Risk Factors for Osteomyelitis?

There are a variety of ways that a person becomes susceptible to developing osteomyelitis. Risk factors for this condition include:

  • Poor blood circulation. This might be seen in a patient with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or sickle cell disease.
  • Hemodialysis. This is a specific type of kidney dialysis but osteomyelitis could occur in anyone with a problem requiring a catheter or intravenous line.
  • A recent injury such as a severe bone fracture or deep puncture wound. A deep animal bite could also increase a person’s risk.
  • Orthopedic surgery to repair broken bones or joints.
  • Having had your spleen removed.
  • Conditions that impair your immune system.
  • The use of illicit injected drugs as many users do not sterilize their skin and use non-sterile needles.

What Symptoms are Associated with Osteomyelitis?

When osteomyelitis develops, a patient might feel any one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Bone pain
  • Discomfort
  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling
  • Redness and warmth with affected area
  • Sweating
  • Low back pain
  • Lethargy or irritability in children

What are the Treatment Options for Ostemyelitis?

There was a time when osteomyelitis was thought to be incurable. Fortunately, this is not the case today as there are very effective treatment options available. To confirm diagnosis, Dr. Danciger might do a bone scan, X-ray or even a tiny biopsy of the infected bone. When osteomyelitis is confirmed, the goal of treatment will be to eradicate the infection and protect any further damage to the bone and surrounding tissues.

Antibiotics, often given intravenously are extremely effective in treating an infection of the bone. This may take 4-6 weeks to fully treat the infection. When antibiotics do not work, surgery may be necessary depending on the severity of the infection. Metal plates from a prior surgery may need to be removed or the diseased part of the bone may need to be removed and replaced with a bone or tissue graft. In severe cases, amputation may be the only course of action to left to stop the infection from spreading further.

If you have had a recent surgery or have a medical condition that puts you at risk for infection, see Dr. Danciger as soon as possible if you notice any of the symptoms described here. Our podiatric office in Palm Desert, CA can provide ways to prevent and reduce your risk for this type of condition from occurring. Make an appointment today directly from our homepage or call our office at (760) 568-0108.


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