Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

A to Z: Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis (os-tee-oh-my-uh-LY-tis) is when a bone  becomes infected, usually due to bacteria entering the body's tissues through an open wound.

More to Know

Osteomyelitis is most commonly caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, but other bacteria can cause it, too. Germs usually enter the body's tissues through an open wound (often a broken bone that breaks the skin), but also can travel to a bone through the bloodstream from another infected area in the body (this is called hematogenous osteomyelitis).

Bones also can become infected when the blood supply to them is disrupted. This sort of infection usually happens in the toes or feet; osteomyelitis from other causes usually affects the long bones of the arms and legs.

Osteomyelitis can cause severe pain in the infected bone, fever, chills, nausea, and a general ill feeling. The skin above the infected bone may become sore, red, and swollen. Osteomyelitis can get worse quickly and lead to serious complications if not treated.

Treatment for osteomyelitis depends on the severity of the infection, but usually involves intravenous (IV) antibiotic medications. For more severe infections, treatment might include a procedure (called debridement) in which a doctor cleans the wound, removes dead tissue, and drains pus from the bone so that it can heal properly.

Keep in Mind

With early diagnosis and proper treatment, osteomyelitis usually heals completely with no long-term complications. To help prevent osteomyelitis, clean fresh wounds thoroughly with soap and water and keep them clean afterward with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. Applying an over-the-counter antibiotic cream also can help prevent wound infection.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.