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Osteomyelitis is diagnosed based on a physical examination and tests including blood tests, imaging tests and a biopsy.
Visit your GP if you are experiencing symptoms of osteomyelitis, such as a high temperature and bone pain.
Your GP will first carry out a physical examination of the affected body part to check for redness, swelling and tenderness.
They will want to know whether you have recently had an injury, surgery or a previous infection.
If osteomyelitis is suspected, they may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon (a specialist in bones and joints).
You may be referred for a blood test. This cannot confirm osteomyelitis, but can indicate whether you have a high number of white blood cells in your blood, which is a sign of an infection.
Also, if the osteomyelitis was caused by bacteria spreading in your blood, a blood test may be useful for detecting the bacteria.
There are several imaging tests used to detect bone damage caused by osteomyelitis. They include:
If tests suggest osteomyelitis, it is usually necessary to remove a small sample of bone for further testing. This is known as a biopsy.
A biopsy is usually necessary to confirm osteomyelitis and can help establish the type of bacteria or fungus causing your infection. This is useful when deciding on the most effective treatment.
A biopsy is usually combined with surgery in chronic cases.
If you have a wound producing pus, a sample may also be taken for testing.