Bone Infection

  • Basics

    Bone infection, also called osteomyelitis, is an infection of the bone. Figure 01. Osteomyelitis occurs in both children and adults, and can affect any bone in the body. If untreated, it can cause permanent bone deformity. Children usually have an acute form of the disease, while adults are more likely to have chronic osteomyelitis. Treatment for both forms of osteomyelitis includes high doses of antibiotics to rid the body of bacteria. Additional treatment such as draining an open wound or abscess, or surgery to remove infected or dead bone tissue, may be necessary for some people.

    Click to enlarge: Bone infection (Cross-section)

    Figure 01. Bone infection (Cross-section)

  • Causes

    The bacteria or other microorganisms that cause osteomyelitis can enter the bone through an injury, or can be carried through the bloodstream to the bones from another infection in the body. Although bones are usually well-protected against infection, they can become infected in several ways. Bacteria can enter the bone through an open fracture, penetration by a sharp, contaminated object (such as a nail that pierces through a shoe), orthopedic surgery, or a human bite. Poorly controlled diabetics who develop serious skin infections in their feet are prone to develop osteomyelitis. The infection can also be carried to the bones in the bloodstream from another part of the body where an infection is present. This type of infection is known as hematogenous osteomyelitis, and is the most common form of the disease in children.

    Staphylococcus aureus is the bacterial organism that causes most cases of osteomyelitis. S. aureus is the primary cause of osteomyelitis among people of all ages, although other bacteria can be involved, including Group A and B Streptococcus, Hemophilus influenzae, Enterobacteriaceae, Escherichia coli, and Salmonellae. In some cases, more than one type of bacteria is found during the laboratory culture of blood or tissue samples. Although it is less common than bacterial infection, fungal infection can also cause osteomyelitis. Chronic osteomyelitis also can be caused by tuberculosis.

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