In most cases, treatments for osteomyelitis require the patient to be hospitalized, and involve a combination of surgery and medications. In particular, antibiotic medications will be chosen based on the specific type of bacteria causing the infection—these antibiotics are usually given through a vein in the arm for four to six weeks, though an additional course of oral antibiotics may be needed for more-serious infections—and surgery is needed to remove portions of the bone that are infected or dead.
Surgical treatment options, depending on the severity of the infection, include draining the affected area, removing the diseased bone and tissue in a procedure called debridement, restoring the flow of blood to the bone following debridement, the removal of any foreign objects such as surgical plates or screws from a previous surgery, and, as a last resort, amputation of the limb.
For people with chronic osteomyelitis, or those whose infection proves especially difficult to treat, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used to promote healing by getting more oxygen to the bone. Patients using this therapy will stay in a chamber that increases the pressure around the body, allowing the lungs to absorb pure oxygen. Patients may need about 100 minutes of this therapy per day for five weeks for it to be effective.