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Bone Infection: Osteomyelitis, Symptoms and causes

Bone Infection: Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis, aka bone infection, can occur when a fungus or infection invades a bone.

In children, bone infections usually occur inside the long bones, which are present in the legs and arms. In adults, osteomyelitis can appear in the spine, hips, and feet.

Bone infections can develop over time or happen suddenly. If not treated properly, bone infections may permanently damage the bone.

What causes osteomyelitis?

Many organisms, like Staphylococcus aureus, often travel through the human bloodstream and cause infection in the bone. The infection usually begins from one area in the body and over time, spread across other bones through the blood stream.

Organisms that invade a deep cut, severe injury, or wound may also attack and infect the nearby bones. Bacteria may also enter the body from surgical sites, such as bone fracture repair or hip replacement site. When patients bone breaks, bacteria invade the bone and causes osteomyelitis.

S. aureus bacteria are amongst the most common causes of bone infection. The bacteria appears on the skin but doesn’t always cause health problems. However, this bacteria can often overpower an immune system that gets weakened by illness and disease. These bacteria are also likely to cause infections in other injured areas.

Who has a higher risk of osteomyelitis?

Only 2 people amongst 10,000 get osteomyelitis. The condition can affect both children as well as adults, although in different ways. Certain conditions and behaviours that weaken the immune system can also increase the person’s risk of getting osteomyelitis, including:

·         Sickle cell disease

·         Diabetes (most osteomyelitis cases stem from diabetes)

·         Rheumatoid arthritis

·         HIV or AIDS

·         Intravenous drug use

·         Long-term use of steroids

·         HIV or AIDS

·         Hemodialysis (A type of Kidney Treatment)

·         Recent injury

·         Poor blood supply

·         Smoking

·         Bone surgeries, including knee and hip replacements, can also increase a person’s chance of developing bone infection (Infected artificial joints or equipment)

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, pain on the infected site is the first symptom of the infection attacking the bone. Other symptoms include:

·         Sudden, persistent fever and chills

·         A general feeling of being unwell

·         Inflammation and redness on the infected area

·         Irritability

·         Drainage from the infected area

·         Inability to use or stiffness on the affected limb

How is bone infection diagnosed?

The doctor can use a variety of techniques for diagnosing your condition to determine if you have a bone infection or any symptoms of bone infection. They can perform a physical exam for checking pain, discolouration, and swelling on your skin. The doctor can also order some lab and diagnostic tests for determining the extent and exact location of the infection.

It’s likely the doctor will recommend a blood test for checking which organisms or bacteria are causing the infection. Urine cultures, throat swabs and stool analyses are some other tests that might be ordered by the doctor.

Another possible test may include a bone scan, that reveals the metabolic and cellular activity of your bones. In this test, a radioactive substance is used for highlighting the bone tissues. If the bone scan fails to provide enough information, then an MRI scan is performed. In some cases, the medical professional may perform a bone biopsy.

However, a simple X-ray of the bone may be enough for the doctor to determine which treatment will be right for you.

How is bone infection treated?

Your doctor may use different options for treating your osteomyelitis.

Medications

In the initial stages, antibiotics may be sufficient for curing the infection. Your doctor may give you antibiotics directly through your veins or administrate them intravenously. The course for these antibiotics can go up to six weeks.

Surgery

Sometimes bone infections can be severe and require surgery. During this procedure, the area of the infected bone is removed, along with the dead issues and any pockets of pus or abscesses.

In case, a prosthesis is causing the infection after a knee or hip replacement surgery; your surgeon will perform a revision procedure. They will remove the infected portion or replace it with a completely new prosthesis. The surgeon will also remove the surrounding infected area and any dead tissue near it, to prevent the infection from developing again.

Can you prevent osteomyelitis?

Thoroughly clean all the open wounds and cuts in the skin. If a cut/ wound is not healing properly with home treatment, contact a medical professional immediately and get examined. Clean and gently dry the amputation sites before applying any ointment, bandage or placing a prosthesis. Also, use protective equipment and proper footwear for avoiding injuries when running, jumping, or while participating in any sports.

What is osteomyelitis long-term outlook?

Osteomyelitis is a curable condition, which can be easily treated. Chronic bone infections may take longer to treat and heal, as they are likely to require surgery. However, bone infection’s treatment should be aggressive, as in some cases, an immediate amputation may be required. The outlook for osteomyelitis is good as far as the infection get treated early on.

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