Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that usually is caused by bacteria or fungi. The bugs can reach the bone from an infection somewhere else in the body – for example, a pressure sore – by traveling through the bloodstream or from an infection that spreads from nearby tissue. Infections can also start in the bone itself after an injury.

You’re more at risk of getting osteomyelitis if you have an artificial joint, such as a knee replacement; diabetes, especially a diabetes-related foot ulcer; a metal implant in a bone, such as a screw; a traumatic injury to the bone; a wound; or a weak immune system.

It is estimated that 2 to 5 out of every 10,000 people get osteomyelitis. Left untreated, parts of the bone may become permanently damaged. Also, an untreated acute bone infection can turn into chronic osteomyelitis, a persistent infection that is hard to get rid of.

MicroGenDX tests can diagnose an osteomyelitis infection

Growing microbes from your sample in a lab, also known as a culture, is often used to diagnose osteomyelitis infections. However, standard cultures might come back negative even when you actually have an infection. That means your infection won’t be treated. Rather than relying on culture, a MicroGenDX test detects the DNA of all microbes (fungi and bacteria) in your sample along with how much of each is present. This information is used to identify causes of the infection and the drugs that can best treat it.

Medical specialties treating an osteomyelitis infection

Prompt identification is important to prevent complications or a chronic osteomyelitis infection. Treatment can involve a wound care nurse, general or orthopedic surgeon, infectious disease consultant, and physical therapist.

How an osteomyelitis infection is treated

Osteomyelitis is treated with antibiotics or antifungal drugs. When an infection is present, the MicroGenDX test will indicate options for antibiotics or antifungals your specialist can prescribe to treat the infection in the “antimicrobials for consideration” section of the test results.

If a bacterial infection is severe, antibiotics may be given through a vein (intravenously) for about four to eight weeks, followed by a course of oral antibiotics.

If the infection is caused by a fungus, antifungal drugs may be required for several months.

It is very important to take the full course of antibiotic or antifungal treatment, regardless of whether you have symptoms. Stopping early can lead to a chronic infection that is difficult to treat.

If osteomyelitis is detected at an early stage, surgery usually is not needed. If surgery is needed, your providers will explain the options.

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