Chronic nonbacterial osteomyelitis in childhood: prospective follow-up during the first year of anti-inflammatory treatment

Arthritis Res Ther. 2010;12(2):R74. doi: 10.1186/ar2992.


Introduction: Chronic nonbacterial osteomyelitis (CNO) is an inflammatory disorder of unknown etiology. In children and adolescents CNO predominantly affects the metaphyses of the long bones, but lesions can occur at any site of the skeleton. Prospectively followed cohorts using a standardized protocol in diagnosis and treatment have rarely been reported.

Methods: Thirty-seven children diagnosed with CNO were treated with naproxen continuously for the first 6 months. If assessment at that time revealed progressive disease or no further improvement, sulfasalazine and short-term corticosteroids were added. The aims of our short-term follow-up study were to describe treatment response in detail and to identify potential risk factors for an unfavorable outcome.

Results: Naproxen treatment was highly effective in general, inducing a symptom-free status in 43% of our patients after 6 months. However, four nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) partial-responders were additionally treated with sulfasalazine and short-term corticosteroids. The total number of clinical detectable lesions was significantly reduced. Mean disease activity estimated by the patient/physician and the physical aspect of health-related quality of life including functional ability (global assessment/childhood health assessment questionnaire and childhood health assessment questionnaire) and pain improved significantly. Forty-one percent of our patients showed radiological relapses, but 67% of them were clinically silent.

Conclusions: Most children show a favorable clinical course in the first year of anti-inflammatory treatment with NSAIDs. Relapses and new radiological lesions can occur at any time and at any site in the skeleton but may not be clinically symptomatic. Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging proved to be very sensitive for initial and follow-up diagnostics.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Naproxen / therapeutic use*
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis
  • Osteomyelitis / drug therapy*
  • Osteomyelitis / microbiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sulfasalazine / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Sulfasalazine
  • Naproxen