Osteomyelitis - Medical Negligence Solicitors – Compensation Claims

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Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection. It is caused by bacteria spreading through the bloodstream to the bone or by spreading from nearby tissue. An injury to the bone can cause infection to begin in the bone itself. In kids, osteomyelitis is common in the long bones of the upper arm and legs, while adults tend to get it in the spinal bones. Diabetics tend to get it in their feet when the feet develop ulcers.

Surgery is done to remove the dead parts of the bone and strong antibiotics are used to kill the infection. Usually it is IV antibiotics that are necessary for at least six weeks.

The symptoms of osteomyelitis are the following:

  • Sweating and chills
  • Pain at the site of the infection
  • Irritability and lethargy in children
  • Swelling, tenderness, warmth and redness over the site

While osteomyelitis can be difficult to diagnose, the treating doctor should have a high index of suspicion for osteomyelitis and should be prepared to treat it.

Most osteomyelitis cases are caused by a form of Staphylococcus, which is a bacterium, which is found on normal skin, noses and mouth. Germs end up in bone via the bloodstream. An infection any other place in the body can travel to bone. In kids, infection begins in the growth plates on either end of the long bone. A nearby puncture wound can carry germs inside the body near the bone and it can spread to bone. If the bone is broken and is sticking out of the skin you can get an infection. Sometimes a surgery can cause direct contamination to bone. Deep animal bites can provide an opening for bone infections.

If you have a circulation disorder such as with poorly controlled diabetes, sickle cell anaemia or peripheral artery disease, the poor circulation can contribute to the onset of osteomyelitis, especially in areas of the body where ulcers form.

People can get osteomyelitis because they have medical tubing in that connects the body to the outside. Germs can get inside the body from the tubing. Common types of tubing that can cause osteomyelitis include dialysis tubing, urinary catheters, and long term central line use.

In people who have a poor immune system are at higher risk of getting osteomyelitis. These include people on chemotherapy, people with diabetes that is poorly controlled, having an organ transplant, or needing to take tumour necrosis factor inhibitors or corticosteroids. People who inject illicit drugs are definitely more likely to use nonsterile needles and get bone infections.

Complications of osteomyelitis include having osteonecrosis or bone death. The bone in this case needs to be removed and, in some cases, the limb needs to be amputated. Septic arthritis can happen if the infection is near the joint. In kids, the growth plates are damaged so that growth of that bone may be interrupted and growth can be impaired. If the osteomyelitis caused an open sore that was draining pus, the nearby skin is at risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

To test for osteomyelitis, doctors should check for an elevated white cell count in the blood. X-rays can show damage to bone but it often doesn’t show up for several weeks. A blood culture can reveal the organism involved in the infection. CT scan can be performed to see the bone infection and an MRI can see the soft tissue around the bone. A bone biopsy is the best way to see what is involved in the bone. A culture can be obtained from the bone biopsy.

The treatment of osteomyelitis includes an antibiotic that fits with the organism found in bone biopsy. Surgery is used to drain the infected area and diseased bone is removed along with dead tissue. In severe cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to get more oxygen into the bone. This promotes healing.

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