Osteomyelitis is the formal term for bone infection, and this condition can prove quite serious. Children more often develop osteomyelitis in the legs and arms, while in adults it usually occurs in the spine.

Not that long ago, osteomyelitis was considered incurable, but fortunately, that is no longer the case. Anyone experiencing osteomyelitis symptoms should visit a Tampa Bay doctor as soon as possible.

Untreated, a bone infection can spread to other organs or the bloodstream. In a worst case scenario, osteomyelitis is fatal. The earlier the bone infection is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.


Bone infections spread through open wounds or other infected tissue. People with certain risk factors may end up with bone infections. These include:

  • Recently broken bones
  • Deep puncture wounds
  • Prostheses, such as artificial hips
  • Diabetes
  • Periodontal disease – for jaw infections
  • Vascular diseases
  • Depending on kidney dialysis
  • Weakened immune system
  • High steroid use
  • Alcohol or substance abuse issues.

The Merck Manual states that osteomyelitis is “usually caused by bacteria, mycobacteria, or fungi,” and occurs most frequently in children and seniors. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common bacterial culprit, while Mycobacterium tuberculosis tends to infect patients with a suppressed immune system. Children diagnosed with osteomyelitis may experience delayed growth in affected bones.

Potential Symptoms

Primary symptoms of osteomyelitis include fever, bone pain, weight loss, and tenderness in the affected area. Abscesses may develop. Children may become irritable and/or lethargic.

Osteomyelitis most frequently occurs in the long bones of the arm and upper leg, and in the spinal vertebrae, pelvis or jaw.

Diagnosing the Condition

Osteomyelitis is diagnosed via a physical examination and medical history, along with diagnostic testing which may include:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • CT Scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Bone scan
  • White blood cell scan
  • Bone biopsy.

While X-rays show changes in the bone, the CT scans or MRI denote any abscesses and specific areas of infection. A bone biopsy reveals the exact cause of infection, whether a bacteria, fungus or mycobacterium.

Once the type of infection is identified, the best antibiotic or other drug for fighting that particular germ is prescribed. An experienced Tampa Bay spine doctor can help an individual diagnose their condition accurately.

Treatment Options

Patients in diagnosed with osteomyelitis require a long course of intravenous antibiotics, lasting between one and two months. The patient may or may not require hospitalization during this period. Should the osteomyelitis prove chronic, antibiotic therapy may last for months.

If the bone infection results from fungus, patients usually require long-term antifungal medication and if an abscess is present, it requires lancing and drainage. A spine doctor in Tampa Bay can best advise an individual on the appropriate treatment options for their conditions.

Surgery Procedure

Under some circumstances, surgery is necessary for osteomyelitis. If parts of the bone become necrotic, or died because of the infection, they require removal. The surgeon debrides the bone; this process removes as much infected bone as possible.

To restore blood flow to the affected bone, the surgeon may insert a piece of the patient’s muscle or skin tissue, taken from another part of the body.

Foreign objects, such as screws or plates on the bone from prior surgeries, may require removal.

Should most of the bone become necrotic, limb amputation may be needed to stop the infection from spreading. That is the option of last resort.

Contacting a Doctor

If you or a loved one shows any symptoms of osteomyelitis, call a Tampa Bay spine doctor immediately to schedule an examination.