Osteomyelitis

nj spine center patient

While rare, this is a series infection of the bone.  Infection may spread through the bloodstream into the bone, or an open fracture or surgery may lead to infection.  In most cases, this infection is caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  You may be at an increased risk for osteomyelitis if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell disease
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • A history of IV drug use
  • Alcoholism
  • A history of steroid use
  • Hemodialysis
  • Poor blood supply

When found in children, osteomyelitis is generally acute, developing rapidly over a period of several days, and tends to present in the arms or legs.

For adults, osteomyelitis may be acute or chronic and generally presents in the pelvis or vertebrae of the spine.  In a person with diabetes, it may present in the feet.

Common symptoms of osteomyelitis may include:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • FatigueNausea
  • Tenderness, redness, and warmth at the infection
  • Swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Severe back pain when osteomyelitis presents in the vertebrae

Upon examination, your doctor will request X-rays, blood tests, MRIs, and bone scans to help determine what’s happening.  A bone biopsy may be necessary to confirm diagnosis, and also help determine what specific type of bacteria is causing the infection so the proper medication can be prescribed.

Treatment primarily focuses on stopping the infection as quickly as possible using antibiotics, surgery, or both.  Antibiotics will generally be given for several weeks, and possibly through an IV at the start.  Chronic osteomyelitis may require surgery to remove any infected tissue or bone.  Surgery will then prevent any infection from spreading further.