Osteomyelitis | Tampa General Hospital


Osteomyelitis affects two out of every 10,000 people and can become chronic if not treated promptly. 

Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of bone tissue due to infection. It can occur at any age and affect any bone. If it goes untreated for too long, it can cause a loss of blood supply to the affected bone and, eventually, the death of the bone tissue. In adults, this condition often impacts vertebrae or the pelvis. Osteomyelitis in children usually affects the large, dense bones in the arms and legs.   

Causes of Osteomyelitis 

There are a variety of scenarios that can lead to the development of osteomyelitis. They include: 

  • Bacteria in the bloodstream (sepsis) that spreads to the bone 
  • A nearby infection caused by a traumatic injury 
  • Frequent medical injections 
  • A surgical procedure 
  • The long-term use of a prosthetic device 

And while this condition isn’t more common to a particular gender or race, certain individuals are more at risk. This includes the elderly, diabetics, hemodialysis patients, those with weakened immune systems, sickle cell disease patients and intravenous drug users.  

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis 

The primary symptoms of osteomyelitis include pain and swelling in the infected area, fever, nausea and the drainage of pus through the skin.  

Other symptoms can include: 

  • Chills 
  • Sweating 
  • Swelling of the lower extremities 
  • Decreased joint motion 
  • Limping 

Diagnosis of Osteomyelitis 

The diagnostic process includes a review of a patient’s medical history and a complete physical examination, during which a physician will look for tenderness, swelling and redness.  

After discussing the patient’s symptoms, the doctor may request an additional procedure to confirm the diagnosis. Possibilities include: 

  • An X-ray 
  • An MRI 
  • Blood tests 
  • A needle aspiration 
  • A biopsy 
  • A bone scan 

Treatments for Osteomyelitis 

The goal of osteomyelitis treatment is to remove the infection to prevent the issue from becoming chronic. Some of the common treatment options include: 

  • Drainage of fluid from the infected area 
  • Antibiotic medications to help kill bacteria in the infected area and remove bacteria from the bloodstream that could cause a re-infection 
  • Surgery to remove any bone that has been destroyed by the infection 

Individuals suffering from osteomyelitis can receive comprehensive treatment at Tampa General Hospital. Our orthopaedic specialists offer world-class, multidisciplinary care to our patients.