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Osteomyelitis - discharge

Alternate Names

Bone infection - discharge

When You Were in the Hospital

You have osteomyelitis, a bone infection caused by bacteria or other germs. You may have been in the hospital to treat a broken bone or to have some other surgery on your bones. Your surgeon may also have removed some infection from your bones or drained an abscess.

What to Expect at Home

Your doctor will ask you to take medicines called antibiotics at home to kill the infection in your bone. At first, you will probably need antibiotics given into a vein in your arm, chest, or neck. At some point, your doctor may switch you to antibiotic pills.

While you are taking antibiotics, your health care provider may check your blood for signs of toxicity from the medicine.

You probably need to take this medicine for at least 3 - 6 weeks. Sometimes, you will need to take it for several months.

Self-care

If you are getting antibiotics through a vein in your arm, chest, or neck:

  • A nurse may come to your home to show you how, or to give you the medicine.
  • You may go to your doctor's office or a special clinic to receive the medicine.

You may need to store some of the medicine at home. Be sure to do it the way your nurse or doctor told you to.

You must learn how to keep the area where your IV is clean and dry. You also need to watch for signs of infection (such as redness, swelling, fever, or chills).

Make sure you give yourself the medicine at the right time. Do NOT stop taking antibiotics when you begin to feel better. If you do not take all of your medicine, or take it at the wrong time, the germs may become harder to treat. The infection may come back.

If you had surgery on your bone, you may need to wear a splint, brace, or sling to protect your bone. Your doctor or nurse will tell you whether you can walk on your leg or use your arm. Follow what your health care provider says you can and cannot do. If you do too much before the infection is gone, your bones can break.

If you have diabetes, it is very important to keep your blood sugar under control. See also: Managing your blood sugar

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • You have a fever higher than 100.5 °F or chills.
  • You are feeling more tired or ill.
  • The area over your bone is redder or more swollen.
  • You have a new skin ulcer or one that is getting bigger.
  • You have more pain around the bone where the infection is located, or you can no longer put weight on a leg or foot or use your arm or hand.

References

Berbari EF, Steckelberg JM, Osmon DR. Osteomyelitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 103.

Tice AD, Rehm SJ, Dalovisio JR, et al. Practice guidelines for outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy. IDSA guidelines. Clin Infect Dis. 2004 Jun 15;38(12):1651-72.

Updated: 3/11/2011

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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