Screening for osteomyelitis most often includes blood tests, imaging tests and bone biopsy. Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein tests (CRP), are used to look for signs of infection. These blood tests work, respectively, by measuring the size, number and maturity of different blood cells (CBC); measuring how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube, as blood proteins clump together and are heavier than normal when inflammation is present, and thus fall more quickly to the bottom of the tube (ESR); and detecting the presence of inflammation or infection (CRP).
A bone biopsy, or needle aspiration, is considered the gold standard when it comes to diagnosing osteomyelitis. This is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into an abnormal area of the body to obtain a tissue sample that is then biopsied to provide a diagnosis. Imaging tests, such as x-rays, radionuclide bone scans, CT scans, MRI tests and ultrasounds, can be used to generate images of internal structures in the body. These tests can give doctors images of the damaged bone and surrounding tissue.