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If bacteria enter the body, they can find their way to the musculoskeletal system, leading to infection. Bone and joint infections, also known as musculoskeletal infections, occur most commonly in toddlers and young children. They often occur in the bones and joints of the arms and legs. An infection of the bone is called osteomyelitis and septic arthritis refers to a joint infection.
Bone and joint infections are usually caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus (or “staph”) and require treatment with antibiotics. A serious form of staph known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes infections that can be more severe and need special antibiotics to treat.
It is important to recognize and treat bone and joint infections because they can:
Symptoms of bone and joint infections may include:
Pediatric infectious disease specialists at Riley at IU Health diagnose children with symptoms of an infection using the following tests:
Once an experienced pediatrician or pediatric orthopedist determines that your child has a bone or joint infection, a procedure may be required to obtain a sample from the infected area. In the case of joint infections, fluid is aspirated using a needle and sent for laboratory analysis. Infections of the bone may require a bone biopsy (tissue sample taken from the body and examined) to help identify what specific bacteria have infected the bone. These procedures help decide the appropriate antibiotic for that type of bacterial infection. Occasionally, orthopedic surgery is required in cases of complicated musculoskeletal infections.
If your child has a bone or joint infection, he or she needs to be treated by an experienced pediatric infectious disease specialist as well as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. If infections are identified and treated early, most children have a good outcome.
Bone and joint infections are treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics during a short hospital stay. After leaving the hospital, most children take oral antibiotics, usually for several weeks.
Some children may need a special IV called a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line. A PICC line provides intravenous access for a prolonged period of time so the child can continue to receive IV antibiotics at home.
Treatment should include follow-up with a pediatric infectious disease specialist and a pediatric orthopedist.
Find more information about bone and joint infections by visiting these trusted websites.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Infectious Diseases Department and the Radiology & Imaging Department at Riley at IU Health are conducting research on the most effective diagnostic methods for musculoskeletal infections.
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