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Lancet. 2004 Jul 24-30;364(9431):369-79.


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  • 1Services of Infectious Diseases and Medicine 2, Department of Internal Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.


Bone and joint infections are painful for patients and frustrating for both them and their doctors. The high success rates of antimicrobial therapy in most infectious diseases have not yet been achieved in bone and joint infections owing to the physiological and anatomical characteristics of bone. The key to successful management is early diagnosis, including bone sampling for microbiological and pathological examination to allow targeted and long-lasting antimicrobial therapy. The various types of osteomyelitis require differing medical and surgical therapeutic strategies. These types include, in order of decreasing frequency: osteomyelitis secondary to a contiguous focus of infection (after trauma, surgery, or insertion of a joint prosthesis); that secondary to vascular insufficiency (in diabetic foot infections); or that of haematogenous origin. Chronic osteomyelitis is associated with avascular necrosis of bone and formation of sequestrum (dead bone), and surgical debridement is necessary for cure in addition to antibiotic therapy. By contrast, acute osteomyelitis can respond to antibiotics alone. Generally, a multidisciplinary approach is required for success, involving expertise in orthopaedic surgery, infectious diseases, and plastic surgery, as well as vascular surgery, particularly for complex cases with soft-tissue loss.

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