Most cases of osteomyelitis are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, types of germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals.
Germs can enter a bone in a variety of ways, including:
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- The bloodstream. Germs in other parts of your body — for example, in the lungs from pneumonia or in the bladder from a urinary tract infection — can travel through your bloodstream to a weakened spot in a bone. In children, osteomyelitis most commonly occurs in the softer areas, called growth plates, at either end of the long bones of the arms and legs.
- Infected tissue or an infected prosthetic joint. Severe puncture wounds can carry germs deep inside your body. If such an injury becomes infected, the germs can spread into a nearby bone.
- Open wounds. Germs can enter the body if you have broken a bone so severely that part of it is sticking out through your skin. Direct contamination can also occur during surgeries to replace joints or repair fractures.
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- Kremers HM, et al. Trends in the epidemiology of osteomyelitis: A population-based study, 1969 to 2009. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2015;97:837.
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