Your doctor may feel the area around the affected bone for any tenderness, swelling or warmth. If you have a foot ulcer, your doctor may use a dull probe to determine the proximity of the underlying bone. To diagnose osteomyelitis and determine which germ is causing the infection, your doctor may follow a combination of tests and procedures like:
- Blood tests give clues that your doctor uses to decide what further tests and procedures you may need, but it cannot tell whether you do or do not have osteomyelitis.
- Imaging tests such as X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Bone biopsy can reveal what particular type of germ has infected your bone which allows your doctor to choose an antibiotic that works particularly well for that type of infection.
The most common treatments for osteomyelitis are surgery to remove portions of bone that are infected or dead, followed by antibiotics. There might be procedures like:
- Drain the infected area. Opening up the area around your infected bone allows your surgeon to drain any pus or fluid that has accumulated in response to the infection.
- Remove diseased bone and tissue, which is a process called debridement.
- Restore blood flow to the bone. Your surgeon may fill any empty space left by the debridement procedure with a piece of bone or other tissue, such as skin or muscle, from another part of your body. The graft helps your body repair damaged blood vessels and form new bone.
- Remove any foreign objects from a previous surgery.
- Amputate the limb to stop the infection from spreading further.
The surgery may include the above one or more procedures depending on your situation.