Complications of osteomyelitis

 Complications of osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is infection of the bone that presents with inflammation and pain. Often, it is a consequence of infection somewhere in the body that spreads to the bone through the bloodstream. At other times, this infection develops in the bones secondary to trauma. Acute and chronic osteomyelitis need complete workup and assessment by Orthopedic Surgeon in Doctors Hospital Lahore to minimize delay in treatment and avoid complications. Read on to know what these possible complications are:

What are the complications of osteomyelitis?

Recurrence of infection

In children, the most common complication of osteomyelitis is recurrence of bone infection. This complication results from the incomplete treatment and persistent infection. This complication is frequently seen in methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA), which is a difficult to treat bacterium often found in hospital settings. In comparison, methicillin-sensitive staph aureus (MSSA) causes lesser incidence of recurrence.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Immobility due to bone infection and stasis of blood result in a prothrombotic state that increase the risk of thrombosis in the deep veins of the legs. These thrombi not only impede the blood flow, but also risk traveling to other regions of the body.

Septic pulmonary emboli

Thrombi from the leg due to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can travel to the lungs and cause a condition called pulmonary embolus. Septic pulmonary embolus is a serious and potentially fatal condition.

Abscess formation

Infestation of the bone by the bacteria can lead to both intraosseous and subperiosteal abscess formation.

Bone deformity

Osteomyelitis weakens the bones and can result in bone deformity.


Spread of infection through the bloodstream from the bones to the rest of the body result in sepsis. Without prompt management, sepsis can be fatal.

Pathological fracture

This rare complication is a result of bone weakening and thinning due to extreme bone destruction. The infective process occurring in the bone due to bacterial infestation result in the causative factor.

Growth disturbance

This is common in children when the infection spreads to areas of the bone called “growth plates”. The growth plates are located at the ends of the bones and if affected by osteomyelitis, can cause growth disturbance.

Septic arthritis

Infected bone can involve the nearby joint as well when the bacteria spread to it through the bloodstream. Septic arthritis is a painful condition and needs management through intravenous antibiotics.


Also known as bone death, osteonecrosis occurs when an infection compromises the blood supply to the bone, resulting in death of the tissue. Areas of osteonecrosis are not treatable by antibiotics alone and need surgical management.

Skin cancer

When osteomyelitis results in a draining open sore, the wound affects the surrounding skin and runs the risk of developing into squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

Complications of osteomyelitis are common with delays in therapy. In case of acute osteomyelitis, management with follow-up is mandated to reduce the odds of complications. In children, osteomyelitis with involvement of bone plates are at risk of growth impairment and should be followed on a yearly basis with regular exams and x-rays until they reach maturity. Despite early intervention, 5 to 10 percent of acute osteomyelitis cases turn into chronic osteomyelitis.

Chronic osteomyelitis presents after six weeks or more of bone infection. 

How to treat osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is treated with antimicrobials after identification of pathogens involved through bone cultures. Thereafter, a combination of intravenous and oral antimicrobials is initiated for a period of 4 to 6 weeks.

In advanced osteomyelitis, operative treatment is needed by specialists like Orthopedic Surgeon in Boulevard Hospital, including debridement of necrotic tissue, adequate drainage, dead space management and restoring the blood supply to the bones. Relapse is less common with surgical treatment.

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