Osteomyelitis is an infection and inflammation of a bone. The long bones and the jaw are the ones most frequently affected. Infection of the bone by the streptococcus or other pus germs is usually the cause. Sometimes the pneumonia or typhoid germ will be the cause.
The infectious agent may get to the bone through the blood stream or it may get to the bone from a badly infected wound in the soft tissues nearby. Osteomyelitis occurs in people in poor health and with very low resistance to infection, or in those who have badly neglected, infected wounds; it may follow injury to tissue near a bone or to the bone itself.
The tissues over the affected bone become red, and a hard, elongated swelling appears at the same time. The patient experiences severe pain deep in the bone and he is taken with chills, fever, sweats and a rapid pulse. The overlying tissues may break through.
The danger in osteomyelitis is that a general infection (septicemia) may develop. The treatment at present is the use of sulfa and penicillin, and if started early, even cases affecting the jaw, which used to be considered most dangerous, are now cured.
The patient must be kept on a highly nourishing diet and given the general care of a fever patient. Even with sulfa and penicillin treatment the swelling must usually be incised and the pus and necrotic bone cleared out. Soaking the wound in sodium sulfathiazole solution helps check the infection; it will be up to the doctor caring for the patient to do what he thinks best.