Can Bed Sores Cause Osteomyelitis?

Bone InfectionOsteomyelitis is bone inflammation, caused by bone or bone marrow infection. It is a serious condition that requires aggressive treatment to prevent the spread of infection and to save the bone. An estimated 80% of osteomyelitis cases stem from open wounds, such as late-stage bed sores. Bed sores do not necessarily cause osteomyelitis, but osteomyelitis can arise as a bed sore complication. Bed sores can leave patients prone to infections such as osteomyelitis.

Bed Sores and Serious Infections

Although most patients recover from bed sores, these injuries can be fatal without proper treatment. The greatest cause of death from a bed sore is severe infection. Bed sores can develop infections if they go without proper treatment, or remain undiagnosed into late-stage pressure ulcers. They may also become infected if the patient’s skin is dirty or moist, such as may be the case with an incontinent elderly individual. Signs of infection in a bed sore include:

  • Red skin around the bed sore
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling sore
  • Pus-like drainage or weeping wound
  • Warmth or swelling around the sore

Infection is a life-threatening complication of pressure ulcers. Cellulitis is a common infection type. It is a bacterial skin infection that can affect the soft tissues. Other common infections impact the bones and joints. A bed sore infection may start at the outer layer of skin (the epidermis), but may burrow deeper as time passes. Deeper infections can negatively impact the joints, cartilage, deeper tissues, muscles, and bones.

Symptoms of and Treatments for Osteomyelitis

A bed sore could lead to osteomyelitis if a bacterial infection enters the bone tissues. The most common causes of osteomyelitis are injuries or surgeries that put the patient at risk of an infection in the bloodstream. The bones most susceptible to infection are the long bones in the legs and upper arms, as well as the spinal cord and pelvic bones. Osteomyelitis typically presents with fever, as well as deep pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms in the wound area.

Osteomyelitis is a relatively rare condition, but can arise as a complication of bed sores in the most serious cases. Stage four bed sores (the most severe stage) are most likely to lead to osteomyelitis and other life-threatening infections. A patient can overcome osteomyelitis if he or she receives an aggressive form of treatment. It may be necessary to amputate the limb with the bone or marrow infection if treatment is unable to save the bone.

Treatments for osteomyelitis often start with a course of antibiotics. Adults may receive four to six weeks of intravenous antibiotics or antifungal medications, either in the hospital or during outpatient care. Side effects from antibiotics can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the antibiotics do not eliminate the infection, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may work instead.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy puts the patient in an oxygen-rich, high-pressure air environment to facilitate healing. It increases the oxygen flowing through the blood, which could trigger the healing of a serious bone infection. More severe cases of osteomyelitis may require surgery to repair bone damage, drain fluid, debride diseased bone, or restore blood flow to the bone. If the infection continues despite treatments and surgeries, amputation of the infected limb may be necessary.

Is Someone Else Liable for Osteomyelitis?

If osteomyelitis stemmed from a severe bed sore infection, the patient may have grounds for a personal injury claim against his or her nursing home, hospital, or caregiver. Since bed sores are often preventable, related infections could come down to caregiver negligence. Someone else may be liable for osteomyelitis-related medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of limb, and permanent disabilities. Discuss your or a loved one’s bed sore case with an attorney today to learn more.


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