Osteomyelitis Infection in the Bones Found in the Vertebrae of the Spine

Definition

Osteomyelitis is an infection in a bone. The infection is usually due to bacteria, but it can also be caused by other types of germ, like a fungus. Osteomyelitis occurs when:

  • Infection enters a bone from nearby muscles, tendons, or skin that is infected. A wound may be the source of osteomyelitis.
  • Infection spreads through the bloodstream to a bone from an infection somewhere else in the body.

Osteomyelitis can also occur following an operation on a bone, especially if the surgery follows an injury or if it included insertion of metal plates or rods.

When children develop osteomyelitis, it occurs most often in the legs or arms. In adults, osteomyelitis is most likely to develop in the hips or pelvic bones, the bones of the foot, or the backbones (vertebrae).  

People who have acute osteomyelitis usually are very ill. Symptoms of bone infection include:

  • Pain in the bone that is infected
  • Swelling at or around the site, along with redness and increased warmth
  • Fever
  • Sweating and chills
  • Generalized achiness and feeling ill

With adequate medical treatment, people who have acute osteomyelitis usually recover. Sometimes chronic osteomyelitis can develop. In this condition, the symptoms of osteomyelitis come and go, sometimes for many years.

Using traditional systems of classification, osteomyelitis is classified using the following factors:

  • the length of time the infection lasts
  • whether the infected bone increases in density due to infection
  • whether the formation of pus occurs as a result of infection

Osteomyelitis classification is sometimes broken into these categories: 

Osteomyelitis prevention, especially for those who have a compromised immune system, involves taking steps to avoid all types of infection. When you are working with sharp tools, such as knives or saws, keep your tools and work surface clean. When participating in sports, wear protective equipment like knee and elbow pads. Keep your home well-lit to avoid tripping in the dark and wipe up spills to avoid slips.

If you do get injured, clean the injured area right away and apply a clean dressing. Check the wound often and know what signs to report to your doctor.  Ways to prevent osteomyelitis.

If you have symptoms of osteomyelitis, notify your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. Especially if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have had a recent injury
  • Use illegal injectable drugs
  • Have had your spleen removed
  • Have a wound that isn’t healing
Osteomyelitis treatment usually requires hospitalization for antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics are usually given intravenously and sometimes surgery is involved in the treatment of osteomyelitis to remove portions of bones that are infected or no longer alive.  If bone infection is severe or has caused extensive tissue damage, osteomyelitis treatment may involve surgical procedures such as:  
  • Drainage of the area
  • Debridement of bone and tissue
  • Blood vessel repair  
  • Removal of surgical instrumentation
  • Amputation
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Image drawing of osteomyelitis infecting the bones Osteomyelitis2-2