Bones and soft tissues of the extremities are well protected against developing an infection. Our body’s natural immune process is very good at recognizing a foreign object or organism (bacteria or fungus) and effectively ‘fighting it off’. In addition, our skin is a natural barrier against infective organisms.
When an extremity infection does occur it is usually due to one of the body’s natural defense systems being weakened or disrupted. A weakened immune system occurs as a result of a number of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. A disruption to the body’s ability to stop invasive organisms includes traumatic accidents where there is significant injury to soft tissues and bone, as well as during surgical procedures where there is an incision that potentially exposes deeper tissues to infection-causing organisms.
While extremity infections are rare, when they do occur they are very serious and can be limb or life threatening.
The types of extremity infection are:
- Osteomyelitis – a deep bone infection
- Infected Joint Replacement – where the joint that was replaced or partially replaced becomes infected
- Septic arthritis (Infectious arthritis) – where a joint that hasn’t been surgically repaired becomes infected.
- Soft tissue infection – where the skin or muscle tissue of the extremity becomes infected. From more mild conditions like cellulitis to more serious conditions like necrotizing fasciitis.
Regardless of the type of extremity infection, it’s important that a physician assess the problem and treatment start as soon as possible. Earlier intervention usually leads to better results.