What Is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is an infection in bone tissue. It can be caused by any number of microbes (germs), but it is often the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is commonly found on our skin but ordinarily doesn’t have access to bone tissue.

Osteomyelitis impacts 2 in every 10,000 Americans. It can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in young children (affecting the long bones of the limbs) and older adults (affecting the spine, hips and feet). It’s also found in those who:

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Wear a prosthetic device
  • Have diabetes, particularly if foot ulcers are present
  • Receive dialysis for kidney disease
  • Are intravenous drug users
  • Have an injury that exposed the bone to microbes
  • Recently had invasive surgery
  • Have a chronic, open wound or soft tissue infection

Osteomyelitis is curable if treated promptly. If left untreated, it can lead to death of the bone tissue, which may require amputation or removal of the infected piece of bone.