Chronic osteomyelitis in childhood: is surgery always indicated?

Infection. 2000 Sep;28(5):282-6. doi: 10.1007/s150100070020.


Background: Presently, most children with chronic osteomyelitis undergo surgery with the inherent risk of damage to their growth plate. We demonstrate a treatment regimen based on imaging procedures focussing on antibiotics in order to reduce the rate of surgical interventions.

Patients and methods: We retrospectively evaluated all 11 patients with clinically suspected chronic osteomyelitis who were treated at our institution from 1989 to 1995. Patients underwent open biopsy and surgical treatment only if imaging procedures showed signs indistinguishable from malignancy, or if they were highly suggestive for the presence of pus, joint infection or osteonecrosis. The patients were followed up for a minimum of 3 years.

Results: All five patients treated solely with antibiotics recovered completely. Three patients were subjected to open biopsy and surgical treatment since they showed radiological signs indistinguishable from malignancy, and two patients due to pus or osteonecrosis. In follow-up, there was one relapse of chronic osteomyelitis 11 months after the first treatment course with surgery and antibiotics. One patient suffering from Ewing's sarcoma as detected by open biopsy was excluded.

Conclusion: Our diagnostic procedure was useful to reduce the rate of surgery. Surgical treatment of chronic osteomyelitis is not always neccessary especially in cases of missing necrosis, joint infection and abscess as demonstrated by the complete recovery of our patients treated solely with antibiotics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / drug therapy*
  • Osteomyelitis / surgery
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents