Osteomyelitis is diagnosed based on a physical examination and tests including blood tests, imaging tests and a biopsy
Osteomyelitis is diagnosed based on a physical examination and tests including blood tests, imaging tests and a biopsy.
Visit your GP if you are experiencing symptoms of osteomyelitis, such as a high temperature and bone pain.
Your GP will first carry out a physical examination of the affected body part to check for redness, swelling and tenderness.
They will want to know whether you have recently had an injury, surgery or a previous infection.
If osteomyelitis is suspected, they may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon (a specialist in bones and joints).
You may be referred for a blood test. This cannot confirm osteomyelitis, but can indicate whether you have a high number of white blood cells in your blood, which is a sign of an infection.
Also, if the osteomyelitis was caused by bacteria spreading in your blood, a blood test may be useful for detecting the bacteria.
There are several imaging tests used to detect bone damage caused by osteomyelitis. They include:
- X-rays, where low levels of radiation are used to create an image of the affected bone – this test is not usually useful for diagnosis if the condition is in the early stages.
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, where a strong magnetic field and radio waves are used to build up a picture of the inside of the affected bone
- computerised tomography (CT) scan, where a series of X-rays of your affected bone are taken and a computer is used to assemble them into a more detailed three-dimensional image
- ultrasound scan, where high-frequency sound waves are used to create an image of the affected bone to highlight any abnormalities
If tests suggest osteomyelitis, it is usually necessary to remove a small sample of bone for further testing. This is known as a biopsy.
A biopsy is usually necessary to confirm osteomyelitis and can help establish the type of bacteria or fungus causing your infection. This is useful when deciding on the most effective treatment.
A biopsy is usually combined with surgery in chronic cases.
If you have a wound producing pus, a sample may also be taken for testing.