Osteomyelitis (cont.)

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What is the treatment for osteomyelitis?

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In many cases, osteomyelitis can be effectively treated with antibiotics and pain medications. If a biopsy is obtained, this can help guide the choice of the best antibiotic. The duration of treatment of osteomyelitis with antibiotics is usually four to eight weeks but varies with the type of infection and the response to the treatments. In some cases, the affected area will be immobilized with a brace to reduce the pain and speed the treatment.

Sometimes, surgery may be necessary. If there is an area of localized bacteria (bone abscess), this may need to be opened, washed out, and drained. If there is damaged soft tissue or bone, this may need to be removed. If bone needs to be removed, it may need to be replaced with bone graft or stabilized during surgery.

What is the prognosis for osteomyelitis?

With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, the prognosis for osteomyelitis is good. Antibiotics regimes are used for four to eight weeks and sometimes longer in the treatment of osteomyelitis depending on the bacteria that caused it and the response of the patient. Commonly, patients can make a full recovery without longstanding complications.

However, if there is a long delay in diagnosis or treatment, or if there is significant bone and soft tissue injury due to trauma with compromised local blood supply, it can lead to permanent functional deficits and/or make the patient more prone to reoccurrence. If surgery or bone grafting is needed, this will prolong the time it takes to recover.

Previous contributing author: Jason C. Eck, DO, MS

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


Christian, S., Kraas, J., Conway, W.F. "Musculoskeletal Infections." Semin Roentgenol 42 (2007): 92-101.

Hartwig, N.G. "How to Treat Acute Musculoskeletal Infections in Children." Adv Exp Med Biol 582 (2006): 191-200.

King, Randall W. "Osteomyelitis in Emergency Medicine." Medscape.com. July 27, 2011.<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/785020-overview>.

Sia, I.G., Baebari, E.F. "Infection and Musculoskeletal Conditions: Osteomyelitis." Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 20 (2006): 1065-1081.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/11/2014

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