Bone infection is also known as osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone or bone marrow.
The bone can be infected in different ways.
The bone could be infected by infections from nearby tissues or that may have been transferred from the bloodstream.
Infections may also be as a result of severe injury, open fracture or wound or surgery. Bacterial or fungal can enter into the bone from the bloodstream which leads to infections.
Osteomyelitis or bone infection was once considered incurable but now aggressive measures or strong intravenous antibiotics are used to treat bone infections.
Bone infection is a very rare condition. An estimation conducted found out that only 2 out of every 10,000 people are diagnosed with bone infections.
It commonly affects the long bones in the legs, upper arm, spine, and pelvis.
Causes of Bone Infection
A bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus is the common cause of bone infection. It travels through the bloodstream into the bone, infecting the bone.
In cases whereby an individual sustains a deep cut or an open wound, bacterial or fungal can enter into the wound and infect nearly bones.
Surgical procedures such as bone fracture repair or hip replacement could cause bacteria to enter into your body and infect the bones.
Diabetes is also a common condition that leads to a bone infection. Foot ulcers could also lead to bone infection if not properly treated on time.
Risk factors for developing Bone Infections
Bone infections can affect adults or children. Certain factors including behavioral and medical factors could increase the risk of developing bone infections. These factors include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Sickle cell disease
- Kidney failure
- Intravenous drug use
- Use of steroids for a long time
- HIV or AIDS
- Severe injury
- Poor blood circulation
- Surgery (hip or knee replacement)
Symptoms of Bone Infection
The symptoms of acute and chronic bone infection are quite similar.
The symptoms include:
- Tenderness and feeling of warmth in the affected area
- The skin turns reddish in color.
- Swelling around the affected area
- Fever or sweating
- Limping or changes in the walking pattern
Diagnosis of Bone Infection
Bone infection can happen in both adults and children. It could be acute or chronic.
Children are mostly affected by acute bone infections. Acute bone infection is easier to treat and can be cured in a short time.
The arm and leg bones are the bones that are commonly affected in children.
In adults, individuals with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or HIV mostly suffers chronic bone infections.
Adults could be affected by either acute or chronic bone infection in the spine or pelvic region. It could also affect the leg or arm bones.
When diagnosing for bone infection or osteomyelitis, your doctor will likely feel and examine the area around the affected bone. He or she will feel the area to know how tender the skin is, if there is any swelling and if you feel warmth or pain.
You may be asked some questions about your medical history.
You may need to undergo a blood test and imaging scans to determine the extent of damage and what germ is causing the infection.
The blood tests will be done so that your doctor will be able to know the level of your white blood cells and how well your body is fighting against infections. A blood test will also reveal the germs or bacteria that is causing the infection. The result from the blood test will determine if there are any additional tests that need to be done.
Imaging scans such as x-ray helps to reveal the bone and the extent of damages. In severe cases, more-detailed imaging scans are needed to detect the accurate extent of damages.
MRI scan is used to obtain more-detailed images of the bones and tissues around the bones. If there are any loopholes with an x-ray scan, an MRI scan will detect them.
CT scan provides cross-sectional views of the internal components of the body. It is used to view the images of the bone in different angles.
Bone biopsy reveals the type of germs that has infected the bone. A sample of your biopsy is taken to the lab for examination. The result will help your doctor to know the proper medications and antibiotic to be used in treating the infection.
Treatment of Bone Infection
The treatment option depends on the degree of damage.
Treatment options include:
Antibiotics can be given through the vein at the affected area to fight the infection. Additional oral antibiotics may also be given to you if the infection is a very serious one. You may be given antibiotics for about six weeks. If you have diabetes or high blood sugar, you may also be given the necessary medications and measures to control your sugar level. This will speed up the healing process.
Your doctor will remove all dead tissues from the surface of the wound to open up the area around the affected bone. All fluid and pus will be drained out.
Removal of infected or diseased bones
Your doctor will as much as possible remove bones that are infected, leaving the uninfected bones. All surrounding tissues that are infected or show signs of infection are also removed. In case you’ve had surgery before, all surgical screws or plates used may also be removed.
Replacing infected bones and tissues
After removing infected bones and tissues, your doctor will replace them with pieces of healthy bones and tissues from other parts of the body. Your doctor may place fillers in the areas where bones and tissues were removed until you are fit enough for a bone or tissue graft.
Amputating the affected limb
This is the last resort when all other medical procedures to treat the affected area has been done but there is no improvement. Your doctor may decide at this stage to amputate the affected limb so that the infection does not spread to other parts of your body. The amputated limb may be replaced by an artificial alternative.