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.
Osteomyelitis Infection Symptoms
Common symptoms include:
- Swelling, warmth and redness in the area of the infection
- Pus draining from the infection
- Pain in the infected part of the bone
- Lower back pain if a bone in the spine is infected
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.
To get complete instructions, you can order a WoundKEY test here: https://microgendx.com/product/woundkey-test-service-dm-intl/
In some cases, your doctor may also do imaging tests, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT).
Providing Samples for MicroGenDX Tests
Everything you need to know about how osteomyelitis samples are taken is included with the WoundKEY test. It’s also available online on the product page. The instructions included with your test contain illustrations to help your doctor collect a sample without contaminating it. It’s always important to obtain a proper sample by following the instructions for collecting the sample, as well as when packaging and shipping it. For example, be sure not to contaminate the sample by touching it with your hands. For best results, you must be off all antibiotics for two days before the sample is collected. However, if this isn’t possible, the test can still be run.
Your doctor will use one of two methods to provide a sample for this test: the swab method or “debridement,” which is the surgical removal of dead or contaminated tissue. Both methods start by using gauze and saline to lightly wipe the surface area to remove dead skin and tissue.
For the swab method, your doctor will roll the swab over the entire surface area of the wound, applying pressure as it moves across the wound. As much material as possible needs to be gathered on the swab to ensure a conclusive sample. Then the swab will be inserted into the specimen tube.
For the debridement method, your doctor might use a numbing agent such as injectable lidocaine for your comfort. Then your doctor will collect the sample by scraping the entire surface of the wound. There might be a little bit of bleeding. If possible, your doctor will collect samples from all areas of the wound to ensure a full and accurate sample, and then transfer the sample into a specimen vial.
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.