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Your options for healing from osteomyelitis

Have you, or has someone you love, been diagnosed with osteomyelitis? Your first step toward healing is to understand what osteomyelitis is and what you can do about it.

What is osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of the bone or bone marrow, which is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. Fungi are the other, less likely, offenders.

Though it's not always possible to pinpoint the exact origin of infection, these microorganisms can infect the bones in the following ways:

  • Bacteria enters the bone through a traumatic or surgical wound

  • Bacteria travels through the bloodstream from other infected areas in the body

  • Infection spreads to the bone from an adjacent, soft-tissue wound

Symptoms of osteomyelitis

The most common symptoms of osteomyelitis include discomfort in the affected area, fevers or night sweats, lack of energy and weight loss. Warning signs include persistent drainage from a wound that will not heal on its own, swelling and redness in the area of the surgical incision.

Risk factors of osteomyelitis

Those who are most at risk for developing osteomyelitis are individuals who fall under the following categories:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic lymphedema

  • Diabetic

  • Elderly

  • Extensive scarring

  • Large surgical implants (i.e., total joint prosthesis)

  • Organ failure

  • Poor nutrition

  • Previous radiation therapy

  • Steroids use

  • Use of tobacco products

Your osteomyelitis diagnosis

Osteomyelitis treatment options

Orthopedic medicine and surgery have made major strides in recent decades. In the 1970s, those who developed osteomyelitis were told the only way to cure chronic osteomyelitis was amputation. Today, there is a select handful of physicians who specialize in the evaluation and treatment of orthopedic infections. They include Sharp-affiliated surgeons who draw osteomyelitis patients from across the globe.

Individualized treatment options are based on a number of factors, including:

  • Location of infection

  • Overall health of the patient

  • Quality of bone and soft tissue

  • Severity of infection

The most common treatments for osteomyelitis include a combination of medical (local and systemic antibiotics) and surgical protocols.

Surgical treatments may include one or more of the following procedures:

  • Drainage of the infected area

  • Reconstruction to restore form and function

  • Removal of infected hardware, prosthetic joint implants, dead bone and/or foreign bodies; such as suture material or retained bone cement

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