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Role of oral antimicrobial therapy in the management of osteomyelitis

Shuford, Jennifer A.; Steckelberg, James M.

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: December 2003 - Volume 16 - Issue 6 - p 515-519
Antimicrobial agents: bacterial/fungal

Purpose of review Medical therapy of chronic osteomyelitis is largely based on experimental models, historical observational or non-randomized studies, and expert opinions. A minimum of 4-6 weeks of intravenous antimicrobial therapy targeting the causative organism, given in conjunction with surgery, has become the standard for chronic long-bone osteomyelitis in adults. Given the expense, inconvenience, and potential complications inherent to such a treatment program, alternative strategies including effective oral antimicrobial regimens are desirable.

Recent findings Several oral antimicrobial agents have undergone evaluation for the treatment of acute and chronic osteomyelitis recently. These include fluoroquinolones, clindamycin, and linezolid. For the treatment of atypical causes of Gram-positive osteomyelitis, other oral therapies have been evaluated with reported success in small numbers of patients.

Summary The standard of care for chronic osteomyelitis in adults remains intravenous antimicrobial therapy, in combination with surgery, for at least 4-6 weeks. Acute osteomyelitis in the pediatric population as well as osteomyelitis caused by atypical Gram-positive organisms and some Gram-negative organisms may be treated successfully with oral antibiotics. Some antimicrobials have equivalent concentration in serum whether administered orally or parenterally. When therapy with these antimicrobials is indicated, the oral route is preferred in compliant patients. As research continues in this area and as new drug formulations are developed, oral therapy may become an accepted alternative in additional selected patients.

Division of Infectious Diseases, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

Correspondence to James M. Steckelberg, Division of Infectious Diseases, Mayo Foundation, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA Tel: +1 507 255 6482; fax: +1 507 255 7767; e-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.