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What is osteomyelitis?

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Quick Answer

Osteomyelitis refers to an infection of bone tissue, which may originate in the bone itself or in nearby tissue, reaching the bone via the blood stream, states Mayo Clinic. Adults often develop osteomyelitis in the vertebrae, and children often develop it in the long arm and leg bones.

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What is osteomyelitis?
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Full Answer

Symptoms of osteomyelitis include pain, warmth, redness or swelling in the affected area as well as fever, chills and irritability, says Mayo Clinic. Patients should contact a doctor immediately if they experience symptoms following an injury or a recent surgery. The condition can be successfully treated with surgical removal of the infected bone tissue and heavy use of intravenous antibiotics.

Although osteomyelitis is most commonly caused by bacteria, it can also result from other germs such as fungi, according to MedlinePlus. Patients with diabetes, a poor blood supply and hemodialysis have a greater risk of developing a bone infection as do those who inject illegal drugs or have had the spleen removed. To diagnose the condition, the doctor may perform a physical examination, blood cultures, a bone scan, an MRI scan, x-rays, a bone biopsy or needle aspirations. The prognosis is generally positive for cases of acute osteomyelitis, but patients with chronic osteomyelitis may continue to experience symptoms even after surgery.

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