Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Osteomyelitis

The bacteria or fungi that cause osteomyelitis can travel through the bloodstream to the bone, causing infection and inflammation. Sometimes the infection reaches the bone through a deep wound, dislocated bone fracture, surgical incision or through frequently used injection sites.

Diagnosing osteomyelitis

A diagnosis of osteomyelitis begins with a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms. Your physician will look for swelling, redness, tenderness and drainage at the site. Other tests that will confirm the diagnosis include:

  • Blood tests: Blood samples will be taken to look for increased white blood cell count (indicating infection) and other indicators of inflammation in the body.
  • Blood culture: A blood sample is stored in an environment that encourages bacterial growth to help identify what the infectious agent is.
  • Needle aspiration: A sample of fluid is removed from the wound or the space between the vertebrae if a spinal infection is suspected.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample is taken from the bone to view under a microscope, so the infectious agent can be identified.
  • Bone scan: This imaging test uses a small amount of radioactive material that will enhance an infected area on the computer screen.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of tissue, and bone and blood vessels.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This uses pulsed radio frequency and magnets to create images used for screening and diagnosis.
  • Ultrasound: This is a quick and easy diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the organs and systems within the body.

Diagnostic Tests