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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Bone Infection

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Bone and joint infections

What are bone and joint infections?

If a germ gets into a bone or joint it can cause an infection. This can happen through the bloodstream, but many infections arise because of injury, a skin ulcer or surgery. The patients treated by the Bone Infection Unit include people with infections of:

  • joint replacements
  • broken bones
  • diabetic foot ulcers

These infections can persist, leading to long-term pain, poor mobility and sometimes wound problems. This is much more likely if:

  • the bone has been killed by the infection
  • there is artificial material present (for example, a joint replacement)
  • there is a persistent wound.

How are bone and joint infections treated?

Most bone and joint infections need treatment from a number of different specialists working in a team. Patients usually need the following.

  • Diagnosis to prove infection is present, to decide on the amount of bone that is infected, whether surgery will help and which antibiotics may be helpful. Diagnosis may involve X-rays, scans and minor procedures. Various specialists then design the treatment plan.
  • Treatment with a combination of surgery and antibiotics. Patients may require more than one operation and are sometimes given antibiotics for long periods of time. Many different specialist doctors, nurses and therapists are involved at this point.
  • Rehabilitation, beginning with the treatment, and likely to take days, weeks or months - most patients will be discharged home or back to their local health services long before they have fully recovered.