Osteomyelitis

  • Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection and reduce damage to the bone and surrounding tissues.

    Antibiotics are given to destroy the bacteria causing the infection. You may receive more than one antibiotic at a time. Often, the antibiotics are given through an IV (intravenously, meaning through a vein) rather than by mouth. Antibiotics are taken for at least 4 - 6 weeks, sometimes longer.

    Surgery may be needed to remove dead bone tissue if you have an infection that does not go away. If there are metal plates near the infection, they may need to be removed. The open space left by the removed bone tissue may be filled with bone graft or packing material that promotes the growth of new bone tissue.

    Infection of an orthopedic prosthesis, such as an artificial joint, may need surgery to remove the prosthesis and infected tissue around the area. A new prosthesis may be implanted in the same operation. More often, doctors wait to implant the prosthesis until the infection has gone away.

    If you have diabetes, it will need to be well controlled. If there are problems with blood supply to the infected area, such as the foot, surgery to improve blood flow may be needed.


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    Expectations (prognosis)

    With treatment, the outcome for acute osteomyelitis is usually good.

    The outlook is worse for those with long-term (chronic) osteomyelitis, even with surgery. Amputation may be needed, especially in those with diabetes or poor blood circulation.

    The outlook for those with an infection of an orthopedic prosthesis depends, in part, on:

    • The patient's health
    • The type of infection
    • Whether the infected prosthesis can be safely removed

    Complications

    When the bone is infected, pus is produced in the bone, which may result in an abscess. The abscess steals the bone's blood supply. The lost blood supply can result in a complication called chronic osteomyelitis. This chronic infection can cause symptoms that come and go for years.

    Other complications include:

    • Need for amputation
    • Reduced limb or joint function
    • Spread of infection to surrounding tissues or the bloodstream

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You develop symptoms of osteomyelitis
    • You have osteomyelitis and the symptoms continue despite treatment