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What Happens If Osteomyelitis Is Left Untreated?

Osteomyelitis is an infectious disease affecting bone and bone marrow. This disease does not clear up on its own, and is most commonly found in diabetic foot ulcers, but is also found in infected injury sites. 60% of patients with osteomyelitis have a severe infection, but only 20% have a moderate infection. If you suspect you may have osteomyelitis, make an appointment with a wound care provider. Here are the steps your infection may reach if professional intervention is not taken.

Step 1: Osteomyelitis

A patient will notice osteomyelitis first at the site of their wound or trauma site. It can develop from an internal or external source:

  • Hematogenous: blood spread
  • Contiguous: from within the wound
  • Post traumatic: exposed bone and or foreign object

The first symptoms include fatigue, fever, pain, swelling, and warmth at the site of the infection. At these first signs, it’s essential to let a doctor know so that you can start taking antibiotics, begin supplementary treatments like Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), and schedule surgery if necessary.

Surgical procedures for osteomyelitis include bone debridement at the site of infection, or in more extreme cases; amputation. However, each case of osteomyelitis is different and will have a different treatment plan.

Step 2: Necrosis

Necrosis is cell death triggered by infection, trauma, lack of blood supply, or a combination of several conditions. This infection is most commonly found on the skin by transmission of a dangerous bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus. About 30-60% of osteomyelitis patients will be diagnosed with this.

At the beginning stages of necrosis, surgeons may use debridement (or the surgical removal of dead tissue) to address necrotic tissue, as well as antibiotics and HBOT. When larger areas are impacted, necrosis graduates to gangrene. Gangrenous limbs or areas often lead to amputation, as they can quickly cause sepsis.

Step 3: Sepsis

Sepsis is a severe infection of the blood. It is the body’s natural response to an untreated infection. Sepsis might be treated by amputation of the infected limb, as well as a course of heavy antibiotics. It is important to note that progress of tissue destruction and possibly loss of life could occur if the wound is not treated in a timely manner.

Who Is Prone To Osteomyelitis?

Anyone can get osteomyelitis, but it can significantly impact those with weakened immune systems, including people with diabetes. It does not impact one gender more than another. Other contributing factors to getting osteomyelitis are people who have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and diabetic neuropathy. These patients could have a history of smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When osteomyelitis is caught and treated early on, the rate of recovery is higher, especially with additional therapies. Because osteomyelitis is often linked to limited blood flow and access to oxygen in the infected area, HBOT therapy has been a highly effective supplemental treatment for patients.

If you believe you could be suffering from osteomyelitis, don’t delay treatment. Reach out to MVS Wound Care & Hyperbarics to see a specialist. They’ll recommend treatment and lead you on your healing path.

To contact us, click here or call us at (410) 433-4300.

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