Bone infections - symptoms and diagnosis

How does an acute bone infection manifest itself?

A bone infection does not always show typical symptoms, making it difficult to recognize the disease. In an acute illness, high fever may be associated with a strong general malaise. The affected section of the bone hurts a lot and is often swollen. If the inflammation affects not only the bone, but a whole joint, this also hurts and its mobility is limited.

How does a chronic bone infection manifest itself?

In a chronic bone infection, the symptoms appear late, depending on the activity of the infection. General symptoms such as fever and malaise are often missing here. Those affected complain more about pain during exercise or at rest, as well as a limited mobility of the adjacent joints. The skin above the affected area may be reddened, warmed or stretched.

As a complication, a fistula can occur: it is a gait that forms between the diseased bone and the surface of the body. He can also secrete secretions. The skin around the fistula is often deeply indented and very thin.

How does the doctor recognize a bone infection?

When taking a medical history, the doctor first informs about the patient's medical history in order to discover evidence of a bone infection. Has surgery been performed lately? Was there an accident with an open break? In children, he may ask for a middle ear infection or a childhood illness such as scarlet fever.

Based on the blood values, the doctor then determines whether there is an inflammation in the body. In a chronic bone infection, however, this method is uncertain, since here the inflammatory levels in the blood are not always significantly increased. On the x-ray, the doctor sees changes in the bone structure. In the acute stage of the disease, however, the radiograph is often inconspicuous, the typical bone infection for an infection occurs only in the later course of the disease.

Also in an ultrasound examination or a magnetic resonance tomography one can see, how far the illness attacked the bone and which structures are affected. To determine the exact cause of the infection, the doctor performs a puncture. So he gains liquid directly from the inflammatory focus. The laboratory then determines which bacterium it is. This is particularly important for further treatment with an antibiotic.

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