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What Is Osteomyelitis?

You may not know this about me, but I love reality TV. Although I’ve greatly reduced my amount of TV viewing in the past several years, I still have a couple of reality shows that I regularly watch. One of my favorites is Deadliest Catch, a show on the Discovery channel about crab fishing.

As you may imagine, crab fishermen and boat captains are a pretty tough crew. Although injuries abound, it’s not very often that a crew member sits out a season. It’s even rarer for a captain to sit out.

keith colburn

Thanks to for the image.

That’s why I was so surprised when Keith Colburn, the captain of The Wizard, announced that he would be skipping bairdi season. He revealed that he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, and his doctor highly recommended that he skip this season in order to receive treatment.

Now, I have seen captains work on the Bering Sea with spinal issues such as missing or displaced discs. I’ve seen them fish while passing kidney stones. So, anytime a captain sits out, you know that something very serious is the cause.

Immediately, I wanted to learn more about Keith’s condition. Here’s what I discovered.


Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of a bone caused by infection. It’s extremely rare with fewer that 200,000 cases in the US per year.


Most often the bacteria that causes osteomyelitis is Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria causes an infection somewhere in the body. Then, it spreads. Infection can be spread in a number of ways. It can:

  • travel through your bloodstream to your bone.
  • make its way into your bone through nearby tissue.
  • enter a bone that has been opened due to surgery or injury. In this case, there might not be any infection anywhere else in the body, just in the opened and exposed bone.

Once the infection gets into the bone, it can start killing bone cells.


Symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

  • fever or chills;
  • irritability;
  • lethargy;
  • fatigue;
  • nausea;
  • pain in the area of the infection;
  • redness, swelling, or tenderness in the area of the infection; and
  • reduced range of motion (particularly if the infection is in a vertebra).


Although this disease was once thought of as incurable, it’s relatively easy to treat these days. However, it does involve a lot of testing. It’s not uncommon for an individual to have blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and even a bone biopsy before treatment begins.

The reason for all of this extensive testing is that the doctor needs to

  1. verify that you have an infection.
  2. look carefully for bone damage.
  3. discover which exact bacteria is causing the infection.


Once the impacted area is identified, you may have to have surgery. According to The Mayo Clinic, the doctor may

  • Drain the infected area. Opening up the area around your infected bone allows your surgeon to drain any pus or fluid that has accumulated in response to the infection.
  • Remove diseased bone and tissue. In a procedure called debridement, the surgeon removes as much of the diseased bone as possible, and takes a small margin of healthy bone to ensure that all the infected areas have been removed. Surrounding tissue that shows signs of infection also may be removed.
  • Restore blood flow to the bone. Your surgeon may fill any empty space left by the debridement procedure with a piece of bone or other tissue, such as skin or muscle, from another part of your body. Sometimes temporary fillers are placed in the pocket until you’re healthy enough to undergo a bone graft or tissue graft. The graft helps your body repair damaged blood vessels and form new bone.
  • Remove any foreign objects. In some cases, foreign objects, such as surgical plates or screws placed during a previous surgery, may have to be removed.
  • Amputate the limb. As a last resort, surgeons may amputate the affected limb to stop the infection from spreading further.”

After surgery, your doctor will prescribe the most effective antibiotic to treat your bacteria strain.

I hope that this information finds you healthy and infection-free. If it doesn’t, best wishes for a speedy recovery. Anyone who has any experience with osteomyelitis should feel free to share their experience in the comments section below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

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