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Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. The infection may be:

  • Acute—for a short time
  • Chronic—lasting for a long time

In adults, the pelvis and the bones of the back are the most common sites. In children, the long bones are most likely to be affected. These are found in the arms and legs.


Osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria that comes in contact with bone tissue and begin to grow. The bacteria may reach the bone through:

  • Bloodstream—blood can carry bacteria from an infection in another part of the body
  • Deep cut that exposes the bone to bacteria on the surface of the skin or environment
  • An infection in a nearby tissue, such as a skin ulcer

Risk Factors

Osteomyelitis is more common in adolescents and young adults. Other factors that increase your chance of osteomyelitis include:

  • Poor circulation from disorders such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease—slows healing and increase risk of infection
  • Trauma or injury to the bone and skin
  • Recent surgery on a joint or bone, such as a hip replacement or internal fixation of a fracture
  • Soft tissue infection
  • Weakened immune system
  • IV drug use
  • Catheter use
  • Pressure ulcers


Symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Tenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness of the skin or joint
  • Drainage of pus
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue or irritability
  • Restricted movement of the area
  • A sore over a bone that does not heal
Skin Infection Spreading to Bone
Bone Infection
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You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids, tissues, and bones may be tested to look for signs of infection. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Skin wound cultures
  • Bone biopsy

Images may be taken of the affected bone to look for abnormalities. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan
  • PET/CT scan


The affected area may be treated with a splint to prevent it from moving. Avoiding weight bearing activities may also be advised.


To reduce your chance of osteomyelitis:

  • Seek immediate medical care for infections or injuries.
  • Keep diabetes under control.
  • Do not use illegal drugs.
  • See your doctor for any sores that do not heal.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit .

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