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Osteomyelitis

Bone or spine infection

Osteomyelitis is a painful bone infection that needs to be treated early to avoid complications

About

Osteomyelitis is painful infection of the bone that can affect anyone. It's more common after a recent fracture, especially if you needed pins in your bone, if you have an artificial hip, or if you've had surgery or osteomyelitis before. A severely weakened immune system, diabetes or close contact with tuberculosis can also make it more likely.

Need to know

  • Symptoms icon plus

    If you have osteomyelitis, you are likely to experience pain, swelling, redness or a warm feeling around an area of bone. You usually feel it in the long bones of your legs. This may be combined with a high temperature or fever, although less so in young children. You should be especially aware of these symptoms if you've had osteomyelitis before.
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    When diagnosing osteomyelitis, you'll probably first have a blood test. Your consultant or GP may also recommend a scan, or a biopsy when they'll take a small amount fluid from the bone to test it.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you have osteomyelitis, your consultant will prescribe you antibiotics, usually for at least six weeks. If the infection is severe, you may have to stay in hospital to have antibiotics intravenously, which is when they are given directly into your vein. In some cases, you may need surgery. This could be to remove bone damaged by the infection, to prevent possible deformity or to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
Consultant in theatres

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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