What is a pediatric bone infection?

Children, especially pre-school aged kids can be prone to bone infections due to the rich blood supply in their growing bones. In fact, kids under 5 account for nearly half of the bone infection cases in the United States. In children and adolescents, bone infections occur most often in the long bones of the legs and arms (femur and humerus). Pediatric bone infections are usually caused by a bacterial infection and is primarily carried through the blood.  Untreated bone infections can result in severe bone destruction, bone deformities and infected joints. It is important to seek the proper treatment for a bone infection and the experts at BICMD can help.  During a telemedicine visit through our secure platform, you can have access to the top bone infection experts in the country. They will advise you of the best treatment options for your child’s specific condition.

What causes bone infections in children?

Bone infections in pediatrics is usually caused by bacteria which is carried through the blood. Since the bones have a rich blood supply while growing, they are easy targets for carrying the bacteria. Bone infections in kids are most often caused by:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection)
  • Group A Streptococci (Strep) usually found in the upper respiratory tract
    • Pneumoniae
    • Pyogenes
  • CA-MRSA – Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus – usually spread by skin-to-skin contact
  • Group B Streptococci in newborns – passed during childbirth from the mother
  • Salmonella – causes gastrointestinal infections

How does Lyme Disease affect the bones?

Lyme disease, especially when discovered in children, has been found to affect bone health. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted by the deer tick. The bacteria from the tick enters the bloodstream and can cause loss of bone mineral density, making the bones brittle and susceptible to fracture. Lyme disease, or the bacteria from the tick can also cause arthritis, or swelling in the joints. Doctors consider the effects of the bacterium Borrelia to be a bone infection that requires aggressive treatment.

What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria. Although rare, osteomyelitis is a serious condition and can infect the bones through the bloodstream, through an open fracture, or through surgery that exposes the bone to infection. In children, osteomyelitis affects the ends of the long bones and most often occurs in pre-mature infants or babies born with complications.

What is septic arthritis?

Septic arthritis in pediatrics is a condition in which the fluid within the joint (knows as synovial fluid) becomes infected. The infection usually occurs after surgery or an injury which exposes the joint space to germs and infection. Bacteria in the bloodstream can also reach the joints, causing infection and inflammation. While not strictly considered a bone infection, septic arthritis can occur either because of a bone infection (rare) or in conjunction with the same type of bacteria in the blood stream that has infected the bone(s).

What are the symptoms of pediatric bone infections?

Children with bone infections often have recent injuries or illness and can have the following symptoms:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Pain
  • Tenderness, redness and swelling in the infected area
  • General fatigue
  • Limited movement – a child may refuse to put weight on an infected limb
  • Lethargy, refusal to eat, vomiting

How are bone infections diagnosed?

A medical history, including recent injuries or illnesses will help in the proper diagnosis of a bone infection. Other tests to check for signs of bone infection may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Diagnostic imaging, especially MRI Scan to evaluate bone marrow inflammation
  • CT Bone scans
  • Needle aspiration to check bone marrow
  • Bone marrow biopsy – to determine the type of infection

What is the treatment for pediatric bone infections?

Non-Surgical Treatment:

The mainstay for treating pediatric bone infections is antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection the antibiotic treatment may be administered orally (by mouth), intravenously (through an IV), or through a PICC line (special intravenous device often placed and then used at home).

The dosage, type of antibiotic and the time needed to resolve a bone infection can varies from child to child but, in general, can take 4 to 6 weeks. It is very important to have your child take all of the antibiotics prescribed, exactly as prescribed, even if they are feeling better after a few days.

Surgical Treatment:

If the infection is severe, children often need surgery to remove infected material from the area. An abscess may need to be drained; segments of dead tissue or infected bone may need to be removed.  If the bone has died, a bone graft may be needed to replace the infected or dead bone. This type of surgery may occur in a second surgery, after the infection has been completely treated.

For more information and resources on pediatric bone infections, Lyme disease, osteomyelitis or septic arthritis, to obtain an expert 2nd opinion regarding your child’s bone or joint condition, please contact our orthopedic specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.