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Quick Facts


(Bone Infection)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is osteomyelitis?

"Osteo-" means bone, and "-itis" means inflammation.

Osteomyelitis is the medical term for a bone infection.

  • Bone is living tissue and can get infected like any other part of your body

  • Infection gets into a bone through your blood or from nearby infected tissue or an open wound

  • You may have pain in your bone, fever, and weight loss

  • You'll need x-rays and maybe a CT or MRI

  • You’ll need weeks of antibiotics and possibly surgery to treat osteomyelitis

With a bad infection, parts of the bone may die, which makes the infection harder to treat.

Sometimes the infection spreads out from your bone into nearby skin and muscle.

What causes osteomyelitis?

Usually bone infections are caused by bacteria that:

  • Spread from nearby infected skin

  • Enter through a deep wound over a bone

Less often the bacteria:

  • Travel through your bloodstream from an infection in another part of your body

  • Enter when a broken bone has punctured the skin

  • Are a complication of bone or joint surgery

You're more likely to get osteomyelitis if you:

What are the symptoms of osteomyelitis?

Symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

  • Fever

  • Pain in the infected bone

  • Sore, red, warm, swollen area over the infected bone

  • Weight loss and tiredness

How can doctors tell if I have osteomyelitis?

Doctors do:

If these tests show osteomyelitis, then doctors may:

  • Use a needle or do surgery to take a sample of the infected area

How do doctors treat osteomyelitis?

Doctors treat osteomyelitis with:

  • Antibiotics given by vein

You may need the antibiotics for 4 to 8 weeks, especially if you've had the infection a long time.

If you're very sick or there's a lot of dead bone, doctors may:

  • Do surgery to remove infected and dead bone

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Bone and Joint Infections
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