ID: 124
Category: Heart condition
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 14 Jul 2017
updatedon: 18 Jun 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated Jun 18, 2023

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Etymology and Pronunciation

Osteomyelitis (os-tee-oh-my-uh-LYE-tis)
osteon - Greek for "bone"
myelo - Greek for "marrow"
-itis - Greek for "inflammation"

History of Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation and infection of the bone and bone marrow.

The earliest recorded cases of osteomyelitis date back to ancient Egypt, where it was referred to as "water in the bone" (Case 42 in the "Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus".  The text states that "a wound penetrated into his flesh, his bone being perforated, (and) his flesh having become putrid...there is swelling upon it. An ailment not to be treated".). In ancient Egypt, it was treated with a combination of surgery, herbal remedies, and incantations. In medieval times, the condition was known as "canker" or "cancrum" and was often fatal, with amputation being the only treatment option.

It was not until the 19th century that a better understanding of osteomyelitis began to emerge. In 1830, French surgeon Auguste NĂ©laton proposed that the disease was caused by bacteria, and in 1875, German physician Friedrich Albert von Zenker identified the specific bacteria responsible for the infection.

Over the next century, advances in medical technology and microbiology led to significant improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of osteomyelitis. In the 1930s, the use of X-rays and other imaging techniques allowed doctors to more accurately identify and locate bone infections. In the 1940s and 1950s, the discovery of antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of osteomyelitis, making it possible to cure many cases without resorting to amputation.

Modern Understanding of Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that can be caused by various types of fungi or bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli. The infection can lead to pain, swelling, redness, warmth, fever, and other symptoms in the affected area. Some people with osteomyelitis may also experience night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, muscle weakness, and a limp.

The infection can occur in any bone in the body, but is most common in the long bones of the legs and arms, and in the spine.

The symptoms of osteomyelitis may include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area, as well as fever and chills. The infection can also cause the affected bone to become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. In severe cases, osteomyelitis can lead to the formation of abscesses, or collections of pus, in the bone tissue.

Diagnosis of osteomyelitis typically involves a physical examination, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, and blood tests. In some cases, a bone biopsy may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Causes of Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a serious bone infection that is caused by bacteria or fungi. These microorganisms can enter the body through a cut or wound, or they can travel through the bloodstream from another part of the body. Once inside the bone, they can cause inflammation and damage to the bone tissue, leading to pain, swelling, and sometimes even bone loss.

Some of the factors that can increase the risk of developing osteomyelitis include having a weakened immune system, having a recent injury or surgery, and having a medical condition that affects blood flow, such as diabetes. People who use intravenous drugs or who have a chronic skin ulcer are also at higher risk for developing osteomyelitis.

Treatments for Osteomyelitis

Treatment for osteomyelitis typically involves antibiotics, which may be administered intravenously (IV) for a period of time. Pain medication may also be prescribed to manage the discomfort associated with the infection. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove dead or infected tissue (debridement) and promote healing. Bone grafting and orthopedic devices such as a cast or brace may also be recommended to help stabilize the affected area and support healing. Physical therapy may also be necessary to help restore strength, range of motion, and mobility.

If left untreated, osteomyelitis can lead to serious complications, such as the formation of bone abscesses, destruction of the affected bone, and sepsis, a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout the body. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for preventing these complications and promoting a full recovery.


Swelling in the infected wound
Limited range of motion
Skin redness

Confirmation Tests

- X-rays
- CT scan
- Bone biopsy
- Microbial cultures