NYU Langone orthopedic surgeons may recommend surgery for some people who have bone infections, known as osteomyelitis. Treatment depends on the type, location, and extent of the infection.
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Doctors may recommend a procedure called debridement to remove dead or damaged bone tissue in people with osteomyelitis. During this procedure, the doctor cuts away dead or damaged bone tissue and washes the wound to remove any dead or loose tissue.
If bone has been removed to treat an infection, it may need to be replaced later. Doctors may eventually replace the removed bone with a graft, a small piece of bone taken from your hip or from a bone bank, a facility that stores donated bone tissue. During this procedure, the doctor may implant antibiotics directly into the bone.
A skin graft may also be needed if the skin around the bone is infected and has failed to heal. Skin grafts applied to the arms and legs can now often be done using local or regional anesthesia.
In a skin graft, an NYU Langone plastic surgeon removes the damaged skin and replaces it with healthy skin taken from the buttocks, inner thigh, or another part of the body. The healthy skin is anchored in place with staples or a few small stitches.
Sometimes the surgeon also moves some muscle to cover an area around a bone infection. This can promote healing, because the muscle provides healthy blood flow to the bone. Surgeons can often perform skin and muscle grafts at the same time as debridement.
It can be difficult to completely eliminate osteomyelitis, which can become a chronic infection. Multiple surgeries may be needed to completely remove the damaged or dead bone.
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