Everything you need to know about Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a rare condition but results in serious complications. It is an infection to your bone and can be infected in many ways. For example, the infection can be caused when a bacterial or fungal infection enters into the bone tissue due to an injury, or it may spread from other body parts through the bloodstream or when the bone is exposed to bacteria during surgery.

Around 80% of cases, Osteomyelitis develop due to an open injury. Bone infections are commonly seen in long bones located in your leg and upper arm, the spine, and the pelvis. In the olden days, it was challenging for doctors to handle Osteomyelitis; however, with advanced medical technology, the treatment became easy, and now the infected bone can also be saved and prevents the spread of infection further.

Osteomyelitis is of different types based on the severity, which include acute, sub-acute, and chronic Osteomyelitis.

Who suffers from Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis can affect people of any age group. But the condition differs between age groups. Osteomyelitis often appears to be seen in vertebrae and the pelvis in adults. When it comes to children, Osteomyelitis mostly affects the long bones such as the humerus and radius located in the arms of the femur and tibia located in the legs. They are the dense bones that give strength, structure, and mobility. 

Osteomyelitis is uncommon in some races and gender. However, people who are vulnerable to develop the condition, which includes:

  • Diabetic people
  • Patients undergoing hemodialysis.
  • People with weak immune systems.
  • People who have sickle cell disease.
  • Intravenous drug abusers.
  • Elderly people
  • People with peripheral artery disease
  • Recent injury or orthopaedic surgery
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • People with HIV or AIDS

Studies say 2 out of every 10,000 people might be affected by Osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is commonly caused by bacteria called staphylococcus that is commonly seen on your skin and nose, even in healthy individuals.

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis

The symptoms of this condition are also challenging to diagnose because they resemble many other common conditions. However, the common signs and symptoms of Osteomyelitis include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the area of infection
  • Fever
  • Inflammation, redness, and warmness in the area of infection
  • Nausea and fatigue
  • Uneasiness, or an ill feeling
  • Drainage of pus from the open wound

Some other symptoms associated with this condition include:

  • Chills and excessive sweating
  • Lower back pain if the infection is around the spine
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs.
  • Reduced range of motion of that joint.
  • Changes in walking pattern, for example, limp 
  • Unwilling to bear weight in children

The symptoms of acute Osteomyelitis develop rapidly even within ten days. Consult an orthopaedic specialist you observe any of the above symptoms.

How Is Osteomyelitis Diagnosed?

The diagnostic procedure of Osteomyelitis includes a review of health history and a complete physical examination. Next, the doctors look for signs or symptoms like bone tenderness and swelling around the infected area. Then the doctor suggests the following tests to evaluate and confirm.

  • Radiographs (X-Rays)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Blood tests
  • Blood culture
  • Needle aspiration
  • Biopsy
  • Bone scan

Treatment for Osteomyelitis

The intention of treatment is to eliminate the infection and prevent further complications. Chronic Osteomyelitis might cause permanent deformity and chronic problems, so treating Osteomyelitis as soon as possible is very important, and it depends on the type and severity of the condition.

Treatment for Acute Osteomyelitis

Infection in this condition develops within 2 weeks after an injury. The condition causes intense pain and life-threatening complications.

In the case of acute Osteomyelitis, antibiotics or antifungal medicine works effectively. It is a course that contains intravenous or sometimes oral antifungal medication for adults. Patients can get treatment either by staying in the hospital or as an outpatient.

The treatment course mainly depends on the severity of the Osteomyelitis. For some people, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is also recommended.

Treatment for Subacute Osteomyelitis

Sub-acute Osteomyelitis takes 1–2 months to develop after an injury or initial infection or when it started as an underlying disease. Treatment for this condition depends on the severity and bone damage if it exists.

Treatment will be similar to acute osteomyelitis condition if there is no bone damage. If there exists any bone damage, treatment will be similar to chronic Osteomyelitis.

Treatment for Chronic Osteomyelitis

Chronic osteomyelitis infection takes around 2 months to develop after an injury or initial infection or when it started as an underlying disease. In most cases, this condition ends up with surgery. 

The surgery involves: 

Draining: The area surrounding the infected bone may accumulate with pus or fluid due to the infection. The surgeon drains out the pus by opening it. 

Debridement: The diseased bone is removed by the surgeon to prevent the spreading of the infection further. If the surrounding tissue is infected, it may also need to be removed.

Restoring blood flow to the bone: After debridement, the empty space needs to be filled with bone tissue, or skin or muscle is taken from another part of your body. The grafted bone or tissue repairs your damaged blood vessels and forms new bone tissue.

Removal of implants: If there are any implants such as surgical plates or screws placed during previous surgery, they also need to be removed if necessary. 

Stabilizing the bone: To stabilize the bone affected and the new graft, implants like metal plates, rods, or screws need to be inserted into the bone. Occasionally, external implants might also be used to stabilize the treated bone.

In rare cases, some patients are unable to tolerate surgery due to illness or any other underlying condition. In such cases, the doctor recommends using antibiotics for years, as long as possible, to suppress the infection.

If the infection develops further, the doctor might amputate the infected limb, but it is rare. To know more information about treatment options, consult Dr. Ajay Tiwari, a renowed Orthopedic surgeon in Hyderabad. He has more than 12 years of experience in treating various bone conditions including joint infections. Call +91 98499 82203 to book an appointment.