What is it?
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the
bone. In order for the bone to become infected, a pathogenic or infection
producing organism must gain access to the involved site. There are two
basic types of osteomyelitis; acute and chronic. Acute osteomyelitis is one
in which there is an "active" infection. The skin surrounding the wound is
usually red, warm, swollen, and frequently has a foul smelling discharge
from the wound site. Chronic osteomyelitis is just how it sounds; "a chronic
or long-standing infection". The difference between acute and chronic
osteomyelitis is that the acute form shows the traditional clinical signs of
infection where the chronic form usually does not. Chronic osteomyelitis
frequently involves exposed bone. However, the redness, heat, swelling, and
malodorous drainage is usually not present.
What causes it?
Osteomyelitis can be caused by a
number of factors. An aggressive infection that breaks through the skin and
penetrates the bone is usually the way it works. A simple opening in the
skin from an ulcer, trauma, or surgery can cause this condition. If the
infection is not quickly treated, an osteomyelitis may form. Diabetics are
often prone to developing this type of bone infection. The reason is that
many diabetics do not have adequate feeling on the bottom of their feet and
will develop ulcers without being aware of the problem. The infection then
progresses and is often not treated in time to prevent a bone infection. If
you have an "opening" or localized wound site on your foot that seems to be
slow or non-healing, a foot specialist should be consulted.
How is it treated?
Osteomyelitis can be
treated either conservatively or aggressively depending on the severity of
the condition. Conservative treatment would consist of intravenous
antibiotics without removing bone. This treatment is frequently utilized
initially until lab studies identify the actual organism causing the
infection. A more specific medication may be used in an IV fashion to more
effectively treat the infection while further studies are done to evaluate
the extent of bone involvement. Once this information is available via bone
biopsy, bone scan, MRI or x-rays, the offending bone should be removed as
well as using IV antibiotics.