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Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone. The bone may become infected due to the infection traveling throughout the bloodstream or spreading from nearby tissue.

In some cases, the infection can begin in the bone itself due to an injury – such as a severe fracture (break) – that directly exposes the bone to germs.

In adults, osteomyelitis most commonly occurs in the bones that make up the spine (vertebrae). In children, this condition usually affects the long bones of the legs and upper arms. If you have diabetes and foot ulcers, you can develop osteomyelitis in your feet.

In some cases of osteomyelitis, you may have no signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Irritability or extreme exhaustion (in young children)
  • Pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the area of the infection


Physical Exam
Your doctor will conduct a comprehensive physical exam – including gathering a health history – to diagnose osteomyelitis. They will feel the area around the affected bone for tenderness, swelling, or warmth.

Blood Tests Your doctor may order a blood test to check for signs of infection, such as elevated white blood cell count.

Imaging Tests
Your doctor may order an imaging test – such as an X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – to check for damages to your bones and surrounding soft tissue.

Bone Biopsy
If your doctor suspects you have osteomyelitis, he or she may remove a small sample of bone – known as a “biopsy” – for close analysis for infection in the laboratory.


Your doctor may need to perform surgery to remove portions of bone that are infected or have died.

Antibiotic Medications
Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the bacteria that has caused the infection. This will likely begin with intravenous (through the vein) antibiotics, followed by a course of oral (by mouth) antibiotics for up to several weeks.

Why Choose UHealth?

Advanced, specialized care to fight infections. From the latest diagnostic techniques to the newest evidence-based medicines, our infectious disease physicians offer specialized care for many infectious diseases including HIV, cytomegalovirus, fungal infections, mycobacterial infections, and more. We create personalized treatment plans based on the cause of your infection and your health to prevent and fight bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. You’ll have access to expert physicians, more treatment options, and supportive care that focuses on your needs.

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