Orthopaedic infections can be devastating. Disease-carrying bacteria, viruses, and parasites that get into the body can destroy healthy tissue, multiply and spread through blood.
Infection of skin and other soft tissue can lead to infection of bones (osteomyelitis) and joints (septic arthritis). Without prompt treatment, orthopaedic infections can become chronic. Thus, even a small scratch on the fingertip has the potential to permanently disable your hand, or worse.
Fortunately, early diagnosis, appropriate antibiotic therapy, and surgical intervention when required can cure most infections and prevent permanent problems.
To control the spread of infections in hospitals, doctors and nurses wear gloves and gowns and wash their hands frequently.
To prevent infections in skin wounds, follow these tips:
Having certain chronic diseases puts you at greater risk for infections. Examples include HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hemophilia, and sickle cell anemia. You can become infected through direct contact with an infected person or through indirect contact, as from a contaminated object.
Infections enter the body through breaks in the skin, especially puncture wounds and other injuries that are difficult to clean.
Sometimes, joint infections develop from an internal hip or knee replacement device (prosthesis). The knee is the most commonly infected joint.
An infection may cause redness, warmth, and inflammation around the affected area. The area may be stiff, drain pus, and lose range of motion. Infections can give you fever and chills.
Infants may act irritable and lethargic, refuse to eat, or vomit. Always suspect infection if your child has pain or swelling in the limbs, spine, or pelvis. The child may limp or refuse to walk.
Infections pose special risks to young children for a number of reasons:
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics that you take through a vein (intravenous, or IV) or swallowed by mouth (orally).
Many types of infections affect skin and other soft tissue. Common among them are
In some cases, soft-tissue infections may be treated simply with warm water soaks and application of a dry, sterile bandage.
In other cases, your doctor may need to drain the infection after giving you a local anesthetic for pain relief.
You may need to apply ointments to the infection or take antibiotics to treat it.
Depending upon severity and other factors, osteomyelitis can cause irreversible damage (necrosis) to bone cells.
Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics and may need to drain the infection and/or cut away (debride) dead bone and other infected tissue.
Difficult cases can require amputation.
Like osteomyelitis, treatment of septic arthritis often requires antibiotics and prompt surgical drainage.
Your doctor may repeatedly aspirate the joint or use other techniques that cut into bone to remove inflammatory cells.
Antibiotics successfully treat most infections caused by bacteria. However, some microorganisms are developing resistance to standard antibiotic treatments. Each time you use an antibiotic, bacteria resistant to treatment may survive and multiply. These bacteria can create infections for which there is no treatment. Resistant bacteria may spread to other people, posing a major health threat for everybody.
It is important to follow the directions of your physician and take all of the pills prescribed, even if you feel well before they are gone.