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Osteomyelitis is a severe bone infection. It can develop in any bone, but often involves the long bones, such as your arm and leg bones, or the bones of the spine. Osteomyelitis is caused by different types of germs, such as bacteria or a fungus.


Call 911 for the following:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe pain.
  • Your bone breaks.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms return.
  • You have increased swelling, pain, or redness of your infected area.
  • You have new drainage or an odor from your wound.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Antifungals help treat or prevent a fungal infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Rest and immobilize:

You may need to rest and wear a splint to help your bone heal. A splint will prevent your bone from moving. Keep weight off of your leg by using crutches, a cane, or walker as directed. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about splints and when you can return to your normal activities.

Eat a variety of healthy foods:

Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Healthy foods will help you heal. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

Do not smoke:

Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and prevent healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.

Control other medical conditions:

Control other medical conditions, such as diabetes, to prevent more bone damage. It is hard to get rid of an infection if your blood sugars are high.

Wound care:

Care for your wound as directed. Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for more blood tests or x-rays. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.