Osteomyelitis in children

Definition

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection caused by bacteria or other germs.

Causes

A bone infection is most often caused by bacteria. It can also be caused by fungi or other germs. In children, the long bones of the arms or legs are most often involved.

When a child has osteomyelitis:

Other risk factors include:

Symptoms

Osteomyelitis symptoms include:

Infants with osteomyelitis may not have a fever or other signs of illness. They might avoid moving the infected limb due to pain.

Exams and Tests

Your child's health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about the symptoms your child is having.

Tests that your child's provider may order include:

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to stop the infection and reduce damage to the bone and surrounding tissues.

Antibiotics are given to destroy the bacteria causing the infection:

Surgery may be needed to remove dead bone tissue if the child has an infection that does not go away.

If your child was treated in the hospital for osteomyelitis, be sure to follow the provider's instructions on how to care for your child at home.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, the outcome for acute osteomyelitis is usually good.

The outlook is worse for those with long-term (chronic) osteomyelitis. Symptoms may come and go for years, even with surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your child's provider if:


Review Date: 9/22/2018
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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