Spine

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Although rare, it is a serious condition. Bones can become infected when an infection in another part of the body spreads through the bloodstream and into the bone. It can also occur from an open fracture or surgery that exposes the bone to germs.

Diagnosing osteomyelitis is difficult. Your doctor may order X-rays, blood tests, an MRI and bone scans to understand what is going on. He or she may also order a bone biopsy to helps determine what is causing the infection.

Symptoms

Osteomyelitis can be acute or chronic, and the symptoms are very similar.

  • Fever, irritability, fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness, redness, and warmth in the area of the infection
  • Swelling around the affected bone
  • Severe back pain, especially during the night, is a significant symptom of osteomyelitis

Treatment

Most people with osteomyelitis are treated with antibiotics, surgery or both. Antibiotics help bring the infection under control and often make it possible to avoid surgery. People with osteomyelitis usually get antibiotics for several weeks through an IV and then switch to a pill.

More serious or chronic osteomyelitis requires surgery to remove the infected tissue and bone. Osteomyelitis surgery prevents the infection from spreading further or getting so bad that amputation is the only remaining option.