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Infections can occur in the bones, joints, and muscles of children. Generally known as “deep” infections, the medical names for these infections are:

  • Osteomyelitis is a form of bone inflammation (bone infection)
  • Arthritis septic (joint infection)
  • Pyomyositis is a form of myositis that affects the muscles (muscle infection)

The parents must consider visiting a pediatric orthopedic doctor in Gurgaon if their child is having any bone or joint infection. The most prevalent forms of bone and joint infections found in children are discussed in this article.

Causes of bone and joint infections

Infections are commonly caused by bacteria that can be found in a child’s routine. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common bacteria that causes bone, joint, and muscle infections in children.

Bacteria can enter the child’s body through several routes.The bacteria travels in the bloodstream to enter a joint, bone or muscle and spread further in the tissues of the bones, joints, and muscles.

Infections are extremely risky for young children for many reasons which are mentioned below:

  • Underdeveloped immunity systems of growing children especially those less than 3 years make them more susceptible to infections. Children get infections when they or injure themselves.
  • Infections spread rapidly through the blood system and bone structure of a small child.
  • Infections can damage the bones and joints of a child hampering their growth and causing physical dysfunction.

Symptoms of bone and joint infections in children

  1. Fever
  2. Pain
  3. Limited mobility of the infected area — if the infection affects the legs or back, a child might limp or refuse to walk. The child might be irritable and sleepy, refuse to eat, or vomit.

Many children with bone and joint infections have recently had an injury. Infection symptoms are sometimes masked by the symptoms of such injury. Since parents want their child’s condition to heal by itself,there is delay in recognizing the infection.

If a child’s symptoms do not improve at home, the parents must take him or her to a specialist immediately.

Diagnosis of bone and joint infection in children

  • Physical Examination and medical history

The parents must inform the child’s doctor about the conditions surrounding the symptoms, such as when they first appeared and whether there was a previous infection.

The doctor will inspect the infected region after reviewing the child’s symptoms and medical records. The doctor might also ask the child to move the affected area to see if moving makes the pain worse.

  • Tests 

Other examinations that can aid the doctor in confirming a diagnosis and planning treatment for the child include:

  • Tissue cultures and blood tests: Blood tests and tissues from the infected area from the infected region can help the doctor identify the cause of the infection. This knowledge about the infection aids the doctor in determining the best treatment options.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and ultrasound scans include images of the organs and muscles of the affected region. It helps the doctor in further determining the cause of infection and providing treatment.

Treatment for bone and joint infections

  • Treatment with antibiotics

Antibiotic prescriptions are the cornerstone of infection control.

  • Intravenous: The child would need to remain in the hospital at first to obtain antibiotics through veins. The severity of the infection will determine the length of the child’s stay in the hospital. Most children with bone, joint, or muscle infections spend one to two weeks in the hospital.
  • Oral: The antibiotic is gradually converted to a form that can be taken by mouth (oral) and delivered at home.
  • PICC line: A special intravenous tube called a PICC line allows certain children to begin receiving antibiotics via vein at home. 

The length of time spent on antibiotics to resolve an infection differs from child to child. However, a general bone infection takes 4 to 6 weeks to resolve, and joint or muscle infections take 3 to 4 weeks.

The child must take all the antibiotics prescribed to him or her exactly as directed by the doctor.

  • Surgery

Antibiotics alone can be sufficient to treat minor infections. However, some children will need surgery to clear infectious substances (pus) from the infection site. This would lower blood pressure and inflammation and increase blood flow, making it possible for antibiotics to enter the infected region. 

One surgical procedure is usually sufficient for most children. However, more severe infections can necessitate two or more procedures to help resolve the condition.

What happens after bone and joint infection is treated?

After adequate treatment, most children will recover entirely from bone and joint infections. It is unlikely that they would develop the same infection again. After treatment, if the child has no other issues and he /she can resume their normal activities.

If an infection is detected early, children have a better chance of recovering early. The longer the infection stays undiagnosed, the more damage will occur to the bones, nerves, and other tissues involved.

Children who have had severe and long-term infections can experience some issues. It includes blood clots, growth hampering, deformed bones, fractures from infection-weakened tissue, bone death (necrosis). However, these conditions are rare.

Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Pediatric Orthopedist and Sports Medicine specialist​

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