When Your Child Has Osteomyelitis
Your child has been diagnosed with osteomyelitis. This is an infection of a bone by a germ (bacteria or fungus). In children, infection in the long bones of the arms and legs are most common. A child with osteomyelitis will be referred to an orthopedist (doctor specializing in treating bone and joint problems) for evaluation and treatment.
What causes osteomyelitis?
Germs such as bacteria and fungi can cause osteomyelitis. The most common type of bacteria that causes osteomyelitis is called Staphylococcus aureus or staph. The bacteria and fungi can enter the body through:
Infected wounds or joints
Infections that spread from another part of the body
Broken bones that break through the skin
Foreign object that breaks the skin
Children with no spleen, children who are on dialysis, children with sickle cell disease, or children who have diabetes are at higher risk of a bone infection. But any child can develop this infection. In some cases, the cause of the infection is never known.
What are the signs and symptoms of osteomyelitis?
If your child has any of these signs or symptoms, get medical help right away.
100.4°F ( 38°C) or higher, or as directed by your child’s healthcare provider
Pain in the bone
Swelling of the arms or legs
Redness or warmth of the skin on the arms or legs
Pus draining from the skin
Not letting the arms or legs be touched
Not using the arms or legs (limb unable to hold weight)
How is osteomyelitis diagnosed?
If osteomyelitis is suspected:
An X-ray is taken of the area to look for infection.
A sample of blood is taken and tests done to confirm infection and determine the germ causing the infection.
Imaging tests such as a bone scan, CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound may be done.
A biopsy (procedure to take a sample of bone) may be done. This helps find the germ causing the infection.
How is osteomyelitis treated?
Treatment usually takes place in the hospital. The treatment may include:
Intravenous or oral (by mouth) antibiotic or antifungal medicines
Surgery to clean out infected area in and around the bone
Antibiotics may be given for 4 to 6 weeks. This can be done using a PICC line (peripherally introduced central catheter) at home.
Most children recover completely. Although rare, complications can occur. They include:
Abnormally shaped bones
Death of bone tissue