The Contemporary Epidemiology, Microbiology and Management of Chronic Osteomyelitis in US Children

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2021 Jun 1;40(6):518-524. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000003067.


Background: While the majority of pediatric osteomyelitis cases are acute in nature, a significant subset present with prolonged symptoms often associated with substantial morbidity. Little data exist to guide clinicians in the management of these infections. We sought to describe the epidemiology, clinical features and management of chronic osteomyelitis (CO) in children.

Methods: We reviewed hospital admissions for CO from 2011 to 2018 at Texas Children's Hospital. Cases were included if symptoms lasted ≥28 days on presentation. Cases were classified as those associated with: (1) a contiguous focus of infection; (2) penetrating trauma; (3) orthopedic hardware; (4) postacute CO (PACO, those occurring after ≥28 days of therapy for acute osteomyelitis); and (5) primary hematogenous CO.

Results: One hundred fourteen cases met inclusion criteria. The median patient age was 11.8 years and 35.9% had comorbidities. 70.2% of patients underwent ≥1 surgical procedure. A microbiologic etiology was identified in 72.8% of cases and Staphylococcus aureus was most common (39.4%). Contiguous focus of infection was more often associated with polymicrobial disease with or without Pseudomonas. Postacute CO was caused by S. aureus in 95%. The median duration of total therapy was 210 days. 26.3% of patients experienced treatment failure of which 46% underwent repeat hospital admission/surgery. There was no association between duration of intravenous therapy for CO and treatment failure.

Conclusions: Children with CO represent a diverse group both in terms of pathogenesis and microbiology. Pathogenesis and clinical presentation can provide clues to microbiologic etiology. Prolonged intravenous therapy does not appear to improve outcomes in CO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / chemistry
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Disease Management*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Osteomyelitis / drug therapy
  • Osteomyelitis / epidemiology*
  • Osteomyelitis / microbiology*
  • Osteomyelitis / prevention & control
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents