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Int J Infect Dis. 2005 May;9(3):127-38.

Antibiotic treatment of osteomyelitis: what have we learned from 30 years of clinical trials?

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, S. Bortolo Hospital, 36100 Vicenza, Italy.



To determine the most appropriate approach to antibiotic therapy for osteomyelitis, the medical literature for articles published from 1968 to 2000 was reviewed.


Ninety-three clinical trials in children and adults were identified using almost every antibiotic class. Most studies were non-comparative and the comparative trials involved relatively few patients. Publications generally did not provide clinically important information regarding infection staging or classification, surgical treatment provided, or the presence of orthopedic hardware. The median duration of follow-up after treatment was only 12 months. The clinical outcome was better for acute than chronic osteomyelitis in eight of the 12 studies allowing comparison. In the comparative trials, few statistically significant differences were observed between the tested treatments. In one small trial, the combination of nafcillin plus rifampin was more effective than nafcillin alone. In pediatric osteomyelitis, oral therapy with cloxacillin was more effective than tetracycline in one study, and oral clindamycin was as effective as parenteral anti-staphylococcal penicillins in another. In several investigations oral fluoroquinolones were as effective as standard parenteral treatments.


Although the optimal duration of antibiotic therapy remains undefined, most investigators treated patients for about six weeks. Despite three decades of research, the available literature on the treatment of osteomyelitis is inadequate to determine the best agent(s), route, or duration of antibiotic therapy.

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