Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bones which is commonly caused by bacteria, sometimes by fungus. In case of an infected bone, its soft marrow swells. The swelling is causing significant pressure to the outer wall or shell of the bone, making the tiny blood vessels within the bone to clog up, reducing or completely blocking the intake of blood into the bone. Without proper blood supply, a part of the bone will become brittle and cause problems. Infection can also easily spread into the surrounding tissue and organs making deposits of pus in the surrounding soft tissue, mostly muscles.
Bones, which are well protected from infections generally, can be infected in three ways – either via blood stream, direct intrusion or infections originating from the soft surrounding tissue. The infection can also be spread via blood from another part of the body. It usually starts on the edges of the bone with children or in spine with adults. Patients suffering from kidney conditions on dialysis or intravenous drug addicts are especially sensitive to the infection of the spine. It can happen in cases when there is a piece of metal close to the bone, such as when the hip is being supported in case of a break with a metal construction. Also, bacteria which cause tuberculosis can infect the spine – this condition is known as Pott’s disease.
Organisms can directly enter the bone via an open shatter or cut during operation of the bone or from infected objects that might come in contact with the bone in case of an accident. Infection of the artificial joint usually happens during the surgical procedure and can also spread to a neighbor bone. Typically, a bone infection can spread into the surrounding soft tissue after a couple of days or weeks. It can begin in the area which was affected by the injury, radiation, cancer or any other condition which caused severe stress or injury.
With children, the infection of the bone which started from the blood stream can cause fever and pain in the infected bone a couple of days after. The area above the bone can be painfully sensitive, swollen and obstructed from a typical movement. Infections of the spine are usually developed gradually, causing permanent pain in the back as well as sensitivity to the touch. The pain increases in movement, reduces while being stationary after warming or intake of painkillers. If the treatment of the bone is note successful, a chronic osteomyelitis can develop. Sometimes, this type of an infection stays hidden for a long time because it doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms.
Usually, an antibiotic therapy is prescribed. Depending on the severity of the infection, antibiotics can be given to the patients for 6-8 weeks, usually while resting. Surgical procedure might be necessary for emptying of the destroyed tissue or firming up of the infected bone. If any joints are severely infected, mechanical substitution can be applied, when it’s important to carefully time the antibiotics therapy so that the new joint fits in properly.