Osteomyelitis - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Osteomyelitis - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

A bone illness called osteomyelitis is brought about by bacteria or fungi. The delicate tissue inside your bones, the bone marrow, becomes painfully swollen as a result. Without therapy, the swelling brought on by this bone...


A bone illness called osteomyelitis is brought about by bacteria or fungi. The delicate tissue inside your bones, the bone marrow, becomes painfully swollen as a result. Without therapy, the swelling brought on by this bone infection may stop the blood flow to your bone, which could result in bone death.

People of all ages and genders are impacted by osteomyelitis. The elderly, children under the age of 3, and individuals with serious medical conditions are more vulnerable to the condition.

Long bones like those in the arms and legs are more likely to be affected in infants with the infection. Adults are more likely to develop spine-specific bone diseases.

The public who smoke and those who suffer from long-term ailments such as diabetes or kidney failure are more probable to develop osteomyelitis. If a diabetic person has foot sores, they run the risk of developing osteomyelitis.

Types of Osteomyelitis

The following are osteomyelitis subtypes:

  • Acute: The onset of this illness is sudden. You might have a fever for a few days before experiencing pain in the infected region.
  • Chronic: Chronic osteomyelitis is an illness of the bones that is resistant to medical care. It results in persistent drainage and bone discomfort. (pus). Occasionally, persistent osteomyelitis goes undiagnosed. It could take months or even years for the illness to be discovered.
  • Vertebral: The spine is affected by this variety. It results in persistent back discomfort that worsens when you move. Treatments like heating, relaxing, and painkillers are ineffective. It seldom results in a temperature. Spinal bone infections are more common in people who reside in care homes, abuse intravenous drugs or are receiving dialysis.


Depending on the type and cause, osteomyelitis symptoms can differ. Some sufferers of persistent osteomyelitis don't show any signs of the condition.

The infected region may also be red, warm, swollen, and tender to the touch in addition to hurting. Additional indications of osteomyelitis include:

  • Drainage (yellow pus).
  • Fever.
  • Lethargy or irritability.
  • limited, uncomfortable motion.
  • Loss of hunger
  • and lower back discomfort.
  • Vomiting and feeling sick.
  • Either sweating or having the shivers.

Osteomyelitis can occasionally go unnoticed or present with symptoms that are difficult to differentiate from those of other conditions.

When to Visit the Doctor?

Consult a medical professional if your fever and bone pain increase. Consult your doctor right away if you experience indications of an infection or if you are at risk for infection due to a medical condition, recent surgery, or injury.

Causes/Factors Resulting in Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis develops when bacteria travel through your blood from nearby infected tissue or an open wound and land in bone, where they proliferate. Osteomyelitis is frequently brought on by staph infections, or Staphylococcus aureus germs. A bone illness can occasionally be brought on by a fungus or other microbe.

Staphylococcus bacteria, which are frequently found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy people, are the primary cause of the majority of osteomyelitis instances.

There are several methods by which germs can get into a bone, including:

  • The vascular flow: Your bloodstream can carry germs from other areas of your body to a weak spot in a bone, such as the lungs from pneumonia or the bladder from a urinary tract illness.
  • Injuries: Deep inside your body, severe puncture scars can introduce bacteria. A neighboring bone may become infected if such an injury develops an infection. If a bone has been broken so severely that a piece of it is protruding through your skin, germs can also infiltrate the body.
  • Surgeries: During operations to substitute joints or fix fractures, there is a risk of direct microbial contamination.

The following conditions increase your chance of developing osteomyelitis:

  • Hip replacement.
  • Diseases like sickle cell anemia or blood infections. 
  • Diabetes, particularly a foot infection brought on by diabetes.
  • Bone inserts are made of metal, like screws. 
  • Pressure wounds (bedsores).
  • Recent bone operation or bone fracture. 
  • Traumatic wounds or damage immune system are weak.


Your doctor may check for any soreness, swelling, or warmth in the vicinity of the injured bone. Your doctor may use a dull probe to assess the closeness of the underlying bone if you have a foot ulcer.

Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following procedures after examining you physically and evaluating your symptoms:

  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) examines the blood for indications of illness and inflammation. An examination of your blood is used to detect pathogens.
  • Tests that produce pictures of your bones, muscles, and   tissues include X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
  • Bone scan: A bone scan employs a small quantity of safe, radioactive substances to spot infections or fractures.
  • Biopsy: A needle biopsy is carried out by your healthcare practitioner to obtain samples of fluid, tissue, or bone that will be examined for indications of infection.

Histopathological Findings

In acute osteomyelitis, microorganisms clogged or thrombosis blood vessels and neutrophil infiltrates are the primary histopathological findings. On the other hand, necrotic bone is the distinctive histopathological discovery in chronic osteomyelitis. A predominance of mononuclear cells, the replacement of osteoclast-resorbed bone by granulation, and fibrous tissue that causes bone loss and the pathognomonic development of sinus tracts are additional characteristics of chronic osteomyelitis.

Osteomyelitis is classified as acute or chronic based on the histopathological findings rather than how long the disease has been present.

Acute osteomyelitis is an infection that develops before the formation of sequestra and typically does so within two weeks of the onset of the illness. Sequestra may, however, grow slowly in some conditions, such as vertebral osteomyelitis, and quickly in others, such as when connected to prosthetic devices or compound fractures.

The infection is regarded as persistent once the necrotic bone has formed and sequestra have formed.

Risk Factors

In general, your bones are immune to infection, but as you age, this defense weakens. Your bones may also be more susceptible to osteomyelitis due to additional variables, such as:

  • Recent orthopedic operation or injury:

Bacteria can infiltrate your bone or surrounding tissue through a severe bone fracture or a deep puncture wound. A deep puncture wound, such as one caused by an animal attack or a shoe-piercing nail, can also act as a vector for infection.

Accidentally creating a path for germs to infiltrate a bone during surgery to fix broken bones or replace worn joints is another risk. Orthopaedic implanted hardware increases the chance of infection.

  • abnormalities of the circulation

Your body struggles to distribute the infection-fighting cells required to prevent a small infection from becoming a bigger one when blood vessels are harmed or blocked. When a tiny cut becomes a deep ulcer, deep tissue, and bone may become exposed to infection.

  • issues needing intravenous catheters or lines

For several medical disorders, medical tubing is used to link your internal organs to the outside world. This tubing can, however, also be a route for germs to enter your body, raising your chance of infection in general, which can result in osteomyelitis.

When using this kind of pipe, some instances are:

a) Pipe for dialysis machines

b) Urological needles

c) Central lines, also known as long-term intravenous catheters

  • illnesses that compromise the immune system

a) You run a higher chance of developing osteomyelitis if you take medication or have a medical b) condition that compromises your immune system. Your defense system may be suppressed by various factors.

c) cancer therapy

inadequately managed diabetes

  • contraband narcotics

People who inject illegal substances are more likely to develop osteomyelitis because they are more likely to use non-sterile needles and not sanitize their skin before injections.


Complications from osteomyelitis may include:

  • Bone demise (osteonecrosis). Bone mortality can result from an infection preventing blood flow within the bone. For antibiotics to work, it is necessary to physically remove areas where the bone has died.
  • Bacterial arthritis. An infection in a bone may occasionally spread to a neighboring joint.
  • Reduced development. If osteomyelitis develops in the softer areas, referred to as growth plates, at either end of the long bones of the arms and legs, it may impair a child's ability to grow normally in their bones or joints.
  • Skin malignancy. The risk of getting squamous cell cancer in the surrounding skin is greater if your osteomyelitis has left an open sore that is draining pus.

Treatment - Ways of Management

Healing from a bone infection can take a very long period. If you begin treatment within three to five days of first noting symptoms, the infection might go away more quickly.

The type of germ causing your infection will be identified by a bone sample, allowing your doctor to select an antibiotic that is effective against that kind of infection. The medicines are typically given for about six weeks through a vein in your arm. For more severe infections, a second round of oral medicines may be required.

If you smoke, giving it up can hasten the mending process. Additionally, it's critical to take action to handle any chronic illnesses you may be dealing with, such as managing your diabetes-related blood sugar

Surgery to remove infected or dead bone tissue is one of the most popular osteomyelitis therapies, followed by intravenous antibiotics administered in a hospital.

The line of medicine comprises the following procedures:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics eliminate microorganisms that ground diseases. Antibiotics may be needed for four to eight weeks, with onset with intravenous (IV) antibiotics distributed in the hospital for one or two weeks. After that, you will stand for medications orally for a few weeks. Antibiotics may be required for months to deal with chronic infections.
  • Antifungals: You may need to take oral anti-fungal medications for months to cure fungal infections
  • A tiny syringe is utilized by your healthcare practitioner to aspirate the pus and fluid from the abscess.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are utilized to supervise inflammation and pain

In some cases, surgery is required to cure bone infections. After the operation, antibiotics will be required. Options for surgery include:

  • Bone surgery: The infected, dead tissue and bone are surgically subtracted (debrided) by your Physician. Bone deformities could develop as a consequence of this procedure.
  • Spine surgery: Vertebral osteomyelitis sufferers may require spinal surgery. Through this process, vertebrae are prevented from collapsing and harming your spinal cord, nerves, and other nervous system components. Important considerations include managing diabetes mellitus the affected limb before surgery if there is evidence of significant peripheral vascular disease and addressing other host factors such as tobacco usage, malnutrition, chronic hypoxia, immunodeficiency forms, chronic lymphedema, and peripheral neuropathy.

Routes to Prevent Osteomyelitis

Your chance of developing osteomyelitis will be lower if you lower your risk of infection.

Take measures to avoid cuts, scrapes, and animal scratches or bites in general because these injuries allow germs to easily enter your body. If you or your kid sustains a minor wound, clean the area right away and bandage it up. Check wounds for infection regularly. Despite once being thought to be incurable, osteomyelitis is now effectively treated.

If you recently underwent treatment for a bone break or have an artificial joint, call your doctor as soon as you notice any infection.


Osteomyelitis is a severe illness that needs to be treated right away. When you take antibiotics, the majority of bone infections go gone. Even if you start to feel better, make sure to take all of your medicine as directed. If you stop taking your medications too quickly, the infection might come back. If you are at risk for osteomyelitis, consult your doctor about the infection's warning symptoms so you will know when to seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment for osteomyelitis typically results in recovery. The sooner you discover the infection and begin therapy, the better your prognosis. Chronic or untreated infections have the potential to irreversibly harm bones, muscles, and tissues.

When feasible, careful preoperative planning and the use of operating rooms with laminar airflow are just two of the many precautions taken to prevent postoperative infections. Additionally advised is the use of prophylactic intravenous antibiotic therapy 30 minutes before skin excision using first-generation (cefazolin) or second-generation cephalosporins. (cefuroxime). All of these steps have been demonstrated to reduce postoperative infections from 0.5% to 2%, leading to better patient results.