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Home |  Blog |  What Causes Osteomyelitis?

What Causes Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that is normally caused by bacteria. It is seen most frequently in children and typically affects the long leg bones, the long arm, and vertebrae. The bacterial infection may enter the body through a skin cut or an infection somewhere else in the body. When diagnosed early, osteomyelitis can successfully be treated with antibiotics, however if not diagnosed in time it can lead to more serious complications.

Osteomyelitis is a fairly rare condition. Only about two of every 10,000 people develop it. It can affect both children and adults, but in different ways. There are certain behaviors and conditions that can weaken a person’s immune system, increasing their risk of developing osteomyelitis.


Most people who get osteomyelitis get it through contact with bacteria — a germ typically found in the nose or on the skin of even healthy people.

These germs can enter the body and bones in a number of ways, like:

Through the bloodstream. Germs in other body parts can flow into the bloodstream to a weak part of a bone. Osteomyelitis in children often occurs in the softer part of the bone known as growth plates where the bone is still forming and growing.

From an adjacent infection. Large cuts and puncture wounds can allow germs to gain access to the body. If an injury like this becomes infected, germs may spread into neighboring bone.

Direct contamination. This can happen if a person breaks a bone so that it is actually sticking through their skin. Another way direct contamination can happen is during surgery to repair fractures or replace joints.


Osteomyelitis has a variety of symptoms, below are some of the most common.
The symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Pain surrounding the infection site
  • Lethargy or irritability in children
  • Warmth, swelling, and redness over the infection site

Determining whether a patient actually has osteomyelitis is the first stage of treatment. The physician will use blood tests, x-rays, and bones scans to diagnose. The type of infection must also be determined in order to prescribe the correct medication. 

The actual treatment normally consists of the use of antibiotics to combat the infection. The antibiotics are normally given using an IV for several weeks, then in the form of a pill.

Chicago Osteomyelitis Treatment

You should see a physician if you are having bone pain that is getting worse and/or a fever (find an orthopedic physicians near you). If you are at a higher risk of developing an infection because of recent surgery or a medical condition, visit your physician promptly if you see signs consistent with an infection.