In this section
Osteomyelitis (oss-tee-owe-my-eh-lie-tis) is an infection in the bone. The bones most commonly affected are those around the knee, hip or ankle. Osteomyelitis is caused by bacteria entering the bone, often after a minor skin infection, cold or a puncture wound. It is often hard to
find out the exact cause.
Your child may suddenly:
A condition with similar symptoms affecting joints is septic arthritis. See our fact sheet
If your child has any of the symptoms of osteomyelitis, see your GP. Your child's doctor may need to:
Most children with osteomyelitis will need to be admitted to hospital, where they may be given a plaster or splint to keep the area still.
It is essential that your child takes the complete course of oral antibiotics that they are prescribed.
Contact your GP or the treating doctor if any of the symptoms listed under signs and symptoms above return, or if your child develops diarrhoea and/or a fever above 38.5°C.
Your child will have a follow-up appointment about one week after going home. It is very important to attend this, even if your child seems to be all better.
If your child is being treated at The Royal Children's Hospital, you will need to come to the hospital three hours before your appointment so your child can have a blood test to check on their progress. The results of the blood test will then be ready for the
What happens if osteomyelitis is not treated quickly, for
instance if it is initially thought to be just a sprained ankle?
It is important that osteomyelitis is treated early to get
rid of the infection and prevent damage to the bone. A sprained ankle won't
cause a child to have a fever and become unwell. If a child is in pain and also
has a fever and is unwell, they should always see a GP.
Will my child's bone be weaker and more prone to breaking
No. Almost all children will make a full
recovery once the treatment for osteomyelitis has finished. It usually occurs
just once and most children are not predisposed to having it again.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Orthopaedics department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed June 2018.
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