Osteomyelitis: Diagnosis and Treatment

Am Fam Physician. 2021 Oct 1;104(4):395-402.


Osteomyelitis is an inflammatory condition of bone secondary to an infectious process. Osteomyelitis is usually clinically diagnosed with support from imaging and laboratory findings. Bone biopsy and microbial cultures offer definitive diagnosis. Plain film radiography should be performed as initial imaging, but sensitivity is low in the early stages of disease. Magnetic resonance imaging with and without contrast media has a higher sensitivity for identifying areas of bone necrosis in later stages. Staging based on major and minor risk factors can help stratify patients for surgical treatment. Antibiotics are the primary treatment option and should be tailored based on culture results and individual patient factors. Surgical bony debridement is often needed, and further surgical intervention may be warranted in high-risk patients or those with extensive disease. Diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease increase the overall risk of acute and chronic osteomyelitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Debridement*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / therapy*
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents