There has been little recent information on the epidemiology and outcome of childhood osteomyelitis since the era of sequential intravenous-oral antibiotic therapy.

Retrospective chart review.

To review the recent experience and outcome of osteomyelitis in children.

Between 1984 and 1996 we identified 146 patients with osteomyelitis. Decreased limb use and fever were the most common presenting symptoms, and tenderness was the most common sign. Staphylococcus aureus was the most common causative organism, and Haemophilus influenzae was not identified after 1990. Bone biopsies or aspirates were superior (83%) to blood cultures (32%) in yielding organisms. 99mTc bone scan was the most sensitive imaging test (94%). Lack of use of anti-teichoic acid titers and serum bactericidal titers did not adversely affect outcome. The median duration of intravenous antibiotic therapy was 11 days, with a median duration of total antibiotics of 38 days. Complications occurred in 6.6% of patients.

S. aureus remains the most important cause of osteomyelitis. Despite inconsistent use of tests for diagnosis and management and use of sequential intravenous-oral therapy, the overall outcome remains excellent.

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