Background: Few studies exist to guide the management of patients with stage 4 pressure ulcers with possible underlying osteomyelitis. We hypothesized that infectious disease (ID) physicians would vary widely in their approach to such patients. Methods: The Emerging Infections Network distributed a 10-question electronic survey in 2018 to 1332 adult ID physicians in different practice settings to determine their approach to such patients. Results: Of the 558 respondents (response rate: 42%), 17% had managed no such patient in the past year. Of the remaining 464 respondents, 60% usually felt confident in diagnosing osteomyelitis; the strongest clinical indicator of osteomyelitis reported was palpable or visible bone at the ulcer base. Approaches to diagnosing osteomyelitis in patients with visible and palpable bone varied: 41% of respondents would assume osteomyelitis, 27% would attempt pressure off-loading first, and 22% would perform diagnostic testing immediately. Preferred tests for osteomyelitis were bone biopsy (for culture and histopathology) and magnetic resonance imaging. Respondents differed widely on favored route(s) (intravenous, oral, or both) and duration of antimicrobial therapy but would treat longer in the absence, vs presence, of full surgical debridement (P <. 001). Overall, 62% of respondents opined that osteomyelitis under stage 4 pressure ulcers is usually or almost always treated excessively, and most (59%) suggested multiple topics for future research. Conclusions: Regarding osteomyelitis underlying stage 4 pressure ulcers, ID physicians reported widely divergent diagnostic and treatment approaches. Most of the reported practice is not supported by the available evidence, which is quite limited and of low quality.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support. This work was supported by the Cooperative Agreement 1 U50 CK000477, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (S.E.B., P.M.P.) and the Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs (A.S.K., J.R.J.).
- pressure ulcer
- spinal cord injury